Summary and Analysis
Part 2: Consequence Analysis: Chapter 8
Blomkvist arrives at Hedestad and begins to settle in to his new environment. After Blomkvist drops off his things at the guesthouse Vanger has prepared for him, the two men tour Hedeby Island. Vanger provides Blomkvist with brief descriptions of the island's residents, many of whom either work for Vanger or are Vangers themselves. After the tour, Blomkvist insists on spending the next day settling in on his own. He also requests that Harriet's files be delivered to his guesthouse, from which he'll do all his work.
Vanger delivers Harriet's files during Blomkvist's second day on Hedeby Island. Blomkvist organizes the meticulous and extensive files and begins his research by looking through the police reports, which are arranged chronologically. Throughout this initial examination, Blomkvist attempts to reach Berger by phone, but she does not respond to his calls.
As he dives into his research, Blomkvist learns that Detective Gustaf Morell took charge of the investigation early on. He admires Morell's thorough and logical questioning of family members and others, as well as his ability to organize several exhaustive but futile searches of the island and the waters surrounding it.
Chapter 8 provides a simile to characterize Henrik Vanger, a symbol of hope in the arrival of a stray cat, and important information to set the stage for Blomkvist's investigation. First, while walking with Vanger, Blomkvist sees the retired businessman as a "melancholy scarecrow." This comparison to a scarecrow yields some insight about Vanger as a character. Beyond a similarity in appearance — Vanger looks tired out and dilapidated as a scarecrow might appear — Vanger also shares in some of a scarecrow's duties. Vanger seeks to be rid of the mystery of Harriet's death just as a scarecrow's role is to rid a field of hungry crows. However, like a scarecrow, Vanger is limited in what he can do to further his goals. He's reached dead end after dead end. Furthermore, he sees his family as a murder of crows — scavenger birds that take advantage of a situation, making his role of "scarecrow" all the more powerful. Vanger is the only one who can prevent the guilty parties from succeeding in getting away with whatever foul-play they wrought upon Harriet.
Secondly, Larsson creates a symbol from the arrival of a stray cat on Blomkvist's cabin's doorstep. The cat's appearance, seemingly out of nowhere, is welcome by Blomkvist, who's feeling depressed and lonely as he begins his new job. The cat becomes a symbol of reassurance and hope for Blomkvist; he's no longer alone. The cat expects nothing of him and is not an object of suspicion. Thus, Blomkvist, having lost his ally in Berger, and having no friends in Hedestad, once again has an ally . . . albeit a four-footed furry one. With the cat in his life, Blomkvist moves past his loneliness and digs into the work he has agreed to do.
Finally, the reader must pay careful attention to the many characters introduced to Blomkvist in Chapter 8. Several Vangers still live on the premises, including Harriet's mother, her brother, and Henrik's brother, Harald. These characters, along with the other Vangers on the island, will no doubt enter more fully into the narrative as Blomkvist begins interviewing them to piece together the events surrounding Harriet's disappearance. Also important is how Henrik Vanger presents each of the residents on the island. How does Vanger see them? Can his portrayal of the island occupants be trusted? For instance, he considers his brother Harald a hermit and says that others on the island, including Harald's daughter, are not close with him; however, Vanger presents no concrete reasons why Harald is a figure of such contempt. Although Vanger's main objective is to solve the mystery of Harriet's death, the bitter history he shares with others influences his perception of the clan. Even the people he trusts may be keeping secrets from Vanger.