Study Guide

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Morality and Ethics

By Stieg Larsson

Morality and Ethics

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)

Since Salander hasn't submitted to any psychological tests, her diagnoses are based on arbitrary speculation. There's a big difference between refusing to cooperate with something you don't believe in and having "difficulty cooperating."

Salander earned about 160,000 kroner a year. […] In spite of this modest income, she had 90,000 kroner in her savings account. But she no longer had access to it. (9.92)

As Salander's guardian, Bjurman is supposed to be a pillar of morality and of professional ethics. Instead, he immediately takes away the thing that allows her to control her own life. The very fact that she's saved so much proves she can handle her own accounts.

She shoved the taser into his left armpit and fired off 750,000 volts. When his legs began to give way, she used all her strength to push him down on the bed. (14.28)

How does this moment make you feel about Salander's morality? Do you think this an immoral act?

"You've been in my computer, Fröken Salander. You're a f***ing hacker." (17.191).

This is before Blomkvist actually meets Salander, when he's reading the report she did on him for Frode. When he meets Salander shortly thereafter, he's more amused than mad.

"I call them Salander's Principles. One of them is that a bastard is always a bastard, and if I can hurt a bastard by digging up s*** about him, then he deserves it." (18.160)

This is what Salander says after Blomkvist tries to convince her that people have a right to their privacy, even bad guys. What do you think?

"But the thing is that when I do a PI, I also look at what I think about the person. I'm not neutral. If a person seems like a good sort, I might tone down my report." (18.160)

As long as a people aren't hurting another people, Salander doesn't try to mess with them.

"Lisbeth, I'm not here to blackmail you. I'm here to ask you to help me do some research. You can say yes or no." (18.172)

This might be a little hard for her to believe fresh after her experience with Bjurman. Blomkvist could ruin her with the proof he has that she hacked his computer. Lucky for him, he decides to be her friend instead.

[Martin:] "Of course my actions aren't socially acceptable, but my crime is first and foremost a crime against the conventions of society." (24.25)

While Salander and Blomkvist think of the suffering of the individual women Martin hurts, Martin pretends to believe that his actions wouldn't be considered criminal if they weren't illegal.

"Harriet F***ing Vanger. If she had done something in 1966, Martin Vanger couldn't have kept killing and raping for thirty-seven years." (27.13)

Salander argues that Harriet had a moral obligation to society to make sure Martin never did to others what he did to Harriet. Harriet could see no way to do this without endangering herself. It's a moral quandary.

"Harriet knew about her father murdering women, but she had no idea Martin had anything to do with it. She fled from a brother who raped her and then threatened to reveal that she drowned her father if she didn't do what he said." (27.13)

Salander doesn't buy this, because she thinks Harriet should've known Martin was a danger to society, and should have found a way to stop him, no matter what.

"So my question to you is this: which is worse: that Martin Vanger raped her out in the cabin or that you're going to do it in print?" (27.190)

Even though Salander is hard on Harriet (not that they've met, or anything), she thinks it's more important to protect her, a living woman who went through hell, than it is to publish the truth of the Vanger family.

"I have his entire hard disk on my computer. You can have as much proof as you need that he's a gangster." (27.298)

Do you think hacktivists, or hackers who hack for social justice like Salander, are morally correct, even though they're violating legal protocol?

"Congratulations. You've managed to corrupt me." (Epilogue.88)

Do you think Blomkvist should have published the truth about the Vanger family? Is he corrupted by just burying the story? What would you do if you were him? How would Salander react if he published it?