Study Guide

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest What's Up With the Epigraph?

By Stieg Larsson

What's Up With the Epigraph?

In The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, each of the novel's four parts begins with an epigraph. The epigraphs are full-page essays. These essays suggest that Stieg Larsson was doing some serious research on women warriors. Would you believe us if we told you he was doing more than just research; he was actually helping to train women to be warriors? It's been recently confirmed that Larsson spent part of 1997 training female guerrillas warriors in Eritrea to use grenade launchers! (source).

All in all, the essays seem to be making several major arguments, as follows:

  1. Males and females are equally fit for combat, and women have been major players in every battle in history.
  2. Women's roles as warriors have been covered up throughout history, creating a stereotype that women aren't fit for war. Legends, like those about breast amputation, perpetuate that stereotype.
  3. Female's roles in battle need to be better recognized in history, and stereotypes that claim women aren't equally capable at the arts of defense need to be recognized as untrue.

These arguments play out in Hornet's Nest. It's not hard to see that the novel is interested in female warrior types. Among these are Salander, Berger, Figuerola, Linder, and Giannini. All are engaged in outright battles to protect the public from injustices. They range in size, shape, and age, bull all are equal in skill to their male colleagues. This helps make an argument that there is no ideal size, shape, or age for warriors in criminal justice, law, journalism, personal protection, or hactivism. What's important is dedication, training, skill, technology (including weapons), and a thirst for the truth.

The problem given most attention in the Blomkivst-Salander novels is violence against girls and women. All three novels seem to make an underlying argument that if females are trained in the arts of weaponry and self defense, the problem of violence against women would be minimized. Add this to the epigraphs and we get an argument that goes something like this:

Recognizing that females are equally qualified as males to act as warriors, and encouraging females to do so, will also minimize violence against women. In other words, if we get rid of the stereotype that females are biologically less suited as warriors than men, tons of other stereotypes would fall apart, and society would become more balanced and, perhaps, less violent.

Now, what do you think of all this? Some might consider Larsson's arguments pretty radical. What would a pacifist have to say about it? Do you think males and females are equally suited to the arts of defense? Do you think that if more women were armed there would be less violence? Do you think young people of one/both sexes should be trained to defend themselves, and to own and use weapons? Why, or why not?

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