Study Guide

The Girl Who Played With Fire Isolation

By Stieg Larsson


After Salander's nighttime visit to his apartment [Bjurman] had felt paralyzed – thoroughly incapable of clear thought or decisive action. He had locked himself in [and] did not answer the telephone […]. (2.15)

This refers to an event from Tattoo. A week after Bjurman brutally rapes Salander repeatedly over an eight hour period, she comes back in the night to return the favor, in a manner of speaking. Since then, he's learned the true meaning of isolation.

Mimmi: "Check it out […]. That guy over there is Mikael Blomkvist. He was more famous than a rock star after the Wennerström affair." (9.93)

On the surface, Blomkvist is the anti-isolation to Salander's isolation, which is part of why she feels so isolated from him. He embraces so many people, and she doesn't feel there's room for her. Of course, he's far from immune to the sting of losing her, of being isolated from her.

He had tried to reach her every day since then. […] He was beginning to despair. (11.12)

After he witnesses her being attacked in the botched kidnapping, he can't deal with being isolated from her. Not only is he worried about her, but seeing her in action brings forth his intense feelings for her.

Bublanski: The psychiatric evaluation that was done when Salander was eighteen concludes that she is mentally retarded. (20.16)

Labels can really isolate people, and it's easy to be careless with them. As Detective Modig learns from master isolator Teleborian himself, Salander's diagnoses are based on her failure to participate, her failure to speak. When someone refuses to speak, there's little we can validly assume about them.

"Well, after this, Salander is going to be sitting in a psychiatric ward for a long time." (20.276)

The speaker of these lines is a mystery. All we know is that the person is Björck's boss, and that it's not Zala. Likely, it's somebody high up in the Secret Police, but it could be anybody. Will we learn the identity of the mystery speaker in final book of the trilogy?

The room contained only a bed with a restraining belt. The textbook explanation was that unruly children could not receive any "stimuli" that might trigger an outburst. (21.26)

This is from Salander's perspective. Apparently, she wasn't the only child to receive this treatment, though we don't get the numbers. What do you think about it? Is this ever appropriate for kids to be treated this way, or for adults for that matter?

According to the Geneva Conventions, subjecting prisoners to sensory deprivation was classified as inhumane. (21.27)

The Geneva Conventions are concerned with ethics in times of war. This passage is arguing that children in St. Stephan's psychiatric hospital, including herself, are subjected to treatment deemed inhumane even in war.

Salander in love. What a f***ing joke. (29.50)

He would never find out. She would never give him the satisfaction. (29.51)

Salander's mistrust of Blomkvist, and her own pride and low self-esteem isolate Salander from what could easily be a warm friendship, at least, with Blomkvist.

Paolo Roberto: "It turns out that he suffers from a very rare condition called congenital analgesia. […] Or in lay terms, [Ronald Niedermann] can't feel pain." (30.53)

This is so outrageous it's hilarious. We love it. But, on the sad side, this would totally isolate Niedermann from 'normal' life. Even more than Salander, Niedermann is the poster-child for isolation. Not that this gives him any excuse for committing all those horrible crimes.

He thought back to the time when he had come to know her […]. It must have been a matter of months after the rape. He could not recall that she so much as hinted that any such thing had happened to her. (30.95)

This is what Blomkvist is thinking about after watching the DVD of Bjurman raping Salander. He's beginning to learn some of the causes of Salander's super-isolated existence.