Study Guide

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Justice and Judgment

By Stieg Larsson

Justice and Judgment

Armansky was bewildered and angry with himself for having so obviously misjudged her. He had taken her for stupid, maybe even retarded. (2.37)

Salander is Armansky's wake-up call. She challenges his ability to judge people, which, as security man, is supposed to be his talent.

Her reports could be catastrophic for any individual who landed in her radar. (2.9)

Salander doesn't just investigate, she judges. If she finds out a person is an abuser of some sort, she metes out justice with a bad report.

By then her casebook was filled with such terms as introverted, socially inhibited, lacking in empathy, ego fixated, psychopathic and asocial behavior, difficulty in cooperating, and incapable of assimilating learning. (9.45)

These are all snap judgments made against Salander by people who don't understand her and don't want to. In the sequel we get information that makes Salander's stance toward the mental health officials more understandable.

Harald argued not only for sterilization but also for euthanasia, actively putting to death people who offended his aesthetic tastes and didn't fit his image of a perfect race. (9.143)

Harald the Nazi is something of a foil to Salander. Salander wants to kill people who offend her sense of morality and justice. On the other hand, Harald isn't concerned with morality, but with physical differences.

[Salander:] "I'm going to speak plainly. […] This video shows you raping a mentally handicapped twenty-four year old girl for whom you were appointed guardian. And you have no idea how mentally handicapped I can be if push comes to shove." (14.56)

We just love this line. Bet Bjurman wishes he'd been more careful in his judgment of her!

On the other hand, there was no question of Advokat Bjurman going unpunished. Salander never forgot an injustice, and was by nature anything but forgiving. (12.19)

Salander is an avenger. It's part of who she is and what she does. When we learn the crimes against her in the next book, we see how her role as avenger was shaped.

And she always got revenge. (12.123)

Just so we're clear on the point – mess with Salander, and she will hurt you.

Bjurman felt cold terror piecing his chest and lost his composure. She has taken control. Impossible. (14.44)

Although we don't like to see anyone get tortured, here we can't help feel kind of happy when Bjurman sees who Salander really is.

The message was written in all caps over five lines that covered his belly, from his nipples to just above his genitals: I AM A SADISTIC PIG, A PERVERT, AND A RAPIST. (14.93)

Bjurman is wearing Salander's judgment and her justice. Do you think her action is just?

[…] the Wennerström empire of obscure companies was linked to the heart of the international Mafia, including everything from illegal arms dealing and money laundering for South American drug cartels to prostitution in New York, and even indirectly for child sex trade in Mexico. (Epilogue.33)

Blomkvist is the vigilante of the world of high finance, though he uses words, not physical violence, to get his revenge.

Martin Vanger drove straight into the truck and the sound of the crash was terrible. (24.119)

Is this justice? Is it better that Martin is dead or would you have liked to see him face his crimes alive?

"But the point is that I couldn't bring myself to say anything. The whole word would have found out. My schoolmates, all my relatives…" (26.99)

Harriet keeps her secrets because she fears the judgment of the people she knows. As we discuss in "What's Up with the Epigraph?" this is a common problem.

She turned on the news halfway through the dramatic report of Wennerström's demise. She put on some coffee and fixed herself a liver pâté and cucumber sandwich. (Epilogue.47)

So Salander steals Wennerström's money, then has the guy killed. She obviously feels justified. What do you think?