Study Guide

The Girl Who Played With Fire Gender

By Stieg Larsson


It isn't hard to tell the good men from the bad men in a Stieg Larsson novel. If they are good, they are respectful in the way they treat, speak to, and think about women. The bad men use the words "b****," "whore," and "slut" constantly in their speech and thoughts, and are likely rapists, woman beaters, woman killers, or all of the above. At best, they see women as inferior to men and try to thwart their progress in all aspects of life. The main female characters in The Girl Who Played With Fire (and the other Salander-Blomkvist novels) are strong, tough, smart, and capable of doing just a about any job well, from journalist to police investigator. And don't worry about trying to find the bad women, because there really aren't any. Likewise, there aren't any male victims. In these novels, Larsson explores ways in which women are victimized: by sadistic men; by the justice, social welfare, and mental health systems; by the media which sometimes allows, covers-up, and even encourages these crimes against women.

Questions About Gender

  1. How is Inspector Modig treated at work? Does her partner, Inspector Bublanski, treat her as an equal? What about the other men? Why does Detective Faste resent her so much? Is it simply because she's a woman, or is there more to it?
  2. Do you think the world Larsson depicts is true to life in Sweden, or an exaggeration to make a point? Is it true in the country you live in?
  3. In Sweden, it's not a crime to sell sex, but it is a crime to buy it. Female prostitutes are considered victims and male johns criminals (source). According to the novel, prostitutes are still discriminated against by the various systems. Why might this be?
  4. Compare the treatment of women in the novel by the various systems to their treatment in your community – what are some similarities and differences?
  5. Do you think prostitutes deserve the same protection under the law as others in society? Why, or why not?