Study Guide

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Family

By Stieg Larsson

Family

It wouldn't work, she said, they would risk what they had if they fell in love too. (3.39)

Blomkvist and Berger have never tried to be a family, or even lovers. This quote indicates it's her choice here. Do you think Blomkvist wants to, though? Could it work if they did try it?

But he was glad that accepted that she could love two men at one time. (3.42)

Yeah, most husbands aren't quite as accepting as Erika's. We get to read more of his perspective on it in the sequel.

Henrik: "Martin was… to tell you the truth, there was a time in his youth when I thought he would follow in his father's footsteps […] but he straightened himself out." (4.191)

This is hideously ironic when we know that Martin really does follow in his father's footsteps.

Salander had tenderness in her eyes, but that this strange woman was her mother never ceased to amaze her. She could recognize not the slightest resemblance in looks or nature. (4.32)

Seeing Salander with her mother is surprising. We almost expect for Salander to have a bad mother she hates. We get more details on their relationship in the other novels.

Her mother at last got the Christmas present opened and sniffed at the aroma, enchanted. Thank you, Camilla. (4.46)

This is how we know Salander has a sister named Camilla, and how we know her mother has a serious problem. But we still don't learn why in this novel. In all, Salander's family remains mysterious.

The Vanger clan consisted of such an extensive cast it would take time to figure out who was who. (8.116)

You're telling us! At first we think we'll never keep all those Vangers straight. But by the time we finish reading, it's pretty clear who is who. Oh, the feeling of accomplishment!

The image that was emerging revealed a family that was socially and financially successful, but in all the more ordinary aspects was quite clearly dysfunctional. (9.138)

Blomkvist doesn't know the half of it at this point. Nazis, serial killers, incest. Scary stuff. But this clan also has some good people: Henrik, Cecilia, Anita, Harriet, Alexander… They provide hope and a counterpoint to gruesome siblings.

[Cecilia:] "It's funny. Martin has turned out to be a really fine person. If you had asked me thirty-five years ago, I would have said he was the one the family who needed psychiatric help." (12.169)

Martin has Cecilia completely fooled, too. We wonder if there were signs that Henrik, Cecilia, and Dirch Frode will think of now that they know the truth.

She had wanted to be close to her lost father – was it a period of mourning she needed to get through? (15.174)

Blomkvist is so wrong at this moment. He assumes Harriet and Gottfried had a good relationship. Even knowing the fact that Gottfried dies before Harriet disappears, Blomkvist doesn't make any connections.

[Harald:] "I said your whore isn't home."

[…]

[Blomkvist:] "You're talking about your own daughter, you f***ing pig." (16.6-8)

Harald Vanger and Blomkvist have an unpleasant conversation about Cecilia. Just a taste of what Cecilia's family life must have been like when she was a kid.

[Harriet:] "I was strong enough to shove an old drunk into the water. I used an oar to hold him under until he wasn't struggling any more. It didn't take long." (26.115)

Sometimes water is thicker than blood in a family. How do you feel about Harriet killing her father? Was it self-defense? Did he deserve it? What would have happened if she'd told someone, like Henrik, at the time?

He was not a good father. (Epilogue.61)

Next to some of the Vanger dads, Blomkvist is dad of the year. But, we can see his point. He hardly sees his daughter, Pernilla. She's almost eighteen. How does Blomkvist's relationship with his daughter influence your opinion of him?

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