Study Guide

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest Violence

By Stieg Larsson


"His injuries seem to be similar to those of a car crash victim – it's hardly credible that anyone could do such damage with his bare hands." (2.134)

Niedermann can, and does, do incredible violence with his bare hands. Here the victim is a policeman who tries to arrest him.

"This is all bulls***. Her mother was a whore. It was probably one of her johns who beat her up. I just happened to be passing by." (3.84)

Zalachenko is, of course, lying, which can be a type of violence in and of itself. The truth is that Zalachenko beat Salander's mother so badly she suffered strokes, was unable to care for herself or her daughter, and eventually died prematurely. And for the record, she wasn't a prostitute.

I was shot in the head. I could stick my finger in the entry wound and touch my brain. (3.91)

When Salander wakes up in the hospital, she starts to remember the violence against her.

Salander […] wondered whether she could […] find something to use as a weapon, and finish the job. But she could scarcely keep her eyes open. She thought, He's going to get away with it again. She had missed her chance to kill Zalachenko. (3.126)

Salander isn't really a murderous person. She doesn't even think of killing Nils Bjurman after he rapes her. But, Zalachenko brings out her darkest side.

"Then he stood up, put the muzzle to Zalachenko's temple, and squeezed twice. He wanted to be sure this time that the bastard was really dead." (7.371)

If you were anticipating a bloody father-daughter showdown, well, you'll have to settle for the sister-brother showdown at the novel's end.

Then she found the brick in the middle of her living room. She limped over to the balcony door and went out to the garden. Someone had sprayed in three foot high letters on the back wall: WHORE (17.116)

This moment, where Berger discovers that her stalker has invaded her home turn, contains all sorts of violence. We would guess that the next step is bodily violence against Berger herself.


Berger's stalker communicates much violence to her through emails from fake email addresses.

As she lay in bed she thought about what Linder had said. Not everybody can afford security. (18.352)

The novel makes the point that security and protection are often luxuries of the rich. Do you agree?

I was a scared little girl barely in my teens then. Now I'm a grown woman and I can kill you whenever I want. (22.103)

Again, proof that Salander isn't murderous. She knows she can kill Teleborian, but won't lower herself by killing him. She leaves him for the law to deal with.

He stood as if paralyzed for the seconds it took her to put the mouth of the nail gun against his boot and fire another five seven-inch nails right through his foot. (Epilogue.177)

This is a weird moment. Niedermann can't feel the pain, but it sure hurts us to read about it, even though we know this violence is probably saving Salander's life.

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