Summary and Analysis
Part 2: Consequence Analysis: Chapter 9
After spending a long night reading through Harriet's files, Blomkvist goes over to visit Vanger for their first interview. As he approaches Vanger's front door, a middle-age man rushes out — Martin Vanger, the current CEO of the Vanger Corporation. Martin and Blomkvist chat briefly before Martin leaves and Blomkvist settles down in Vanger's study to ask the former CEO to explain the family history.
At this point, the narrative shifts to Salander, and more about her past comes to light. After some unspecified trauma in her early adolescence, Salander spent a couple years first institutionalized for emotional and psychiatric issues, and then in and out of foster homes throughout her teens. Her saving grace has been Palmgren, who was assigned as her trustee by the courts. By maintaining a polite and respectful relationship with Salander no matter how outrageous her behavior, Palmgren has won her trust. His trust was put to the test when, at age 17, Salander was accused of assaulting a man who groped her at a train station. Palmgren, acting as both her trustee and her lawyer was able to keep her out of institutions by agreeing to be her guardian and serving in a supervisory role in her life. Because of Palmgren and Salander's trust and respect for each other, Salander was able to maintain her own residence and finances. However, her independence is now at risk because Palmgren has suffered a debilitating stroke and she's been assigned a new guardian, Nils Bjurman. Bjurman thinks Palmgren has been a fool to allow Salander such freedoms. Bjurman demands that control of Salander's finances falls under his guardianship, and he requires more information on her day-to-day routine. Salander, immediately distrustful of him, lies about her job, saying she's merely an office assistant and not an investigator.
The narrative then shifts back to Blomkvist and the Vanger family history, a story Blomkvist finds inherently interesting. Vanger relates to him how the original members of the clan immigrated to Sweden and how their initial mining business grew into the multifaceted corporation it is today.
Reviewing his conversation with Vanger, Blomkvist is able to create a list of likely suspects in Harriet's disappearance. He also learns more about Henrik's relationship with his brothers and the animosity between them. Three of Henrik's brothers were involved in the fascist movement in Sweden in the early and mid-twentieth century, including his only surviving brother and neighbor, Harald. When Blomkvist asks why Harald has chosen to live so close to a family member he hates, Vanger provides insight into Harald's disdain for his brother. Henrik reveals that he married Edith, a Jewish woman Henrik rescued from Nazi Germany in the early 1940s, and that Harald has been furious with him ever since.
Chapter 9 discloses important background that furthers understanding of Salander's character and motivations and uses an allusion to Epiphany Day to reveal more about Blomkvist's quest for knowledge.
Salander's youth explains more about her present behavior. With recognized potential for violent behavior and refusal to work well with others, Salander seems to fall even further into bad behavior after what she refers to as the day "All The Evil had happened." While the particularities of that time are still unknown to the reader, Salander's history seems to suggest that Armansky was right in his estimation that she experienced significant emotional trauma to account for her cold and reserved behavior. Furthermore, although her mother is alive, Salander's childhood history indicates much of her adolescence was spent independent of her family — making her not only an orphan of sorts, but also deepening her connection to Pippi Longstocking, who was also a semi-orphan, her father having been lost for many years at sea. Salander's discussion with her new guardian, Bjurman, underscores the influence her positive relationship with Palmgren has had on her. For instance, she agrees to go to the meeting because Palmgren has taught her to think about the consequences of her choices, something she once struggled with as a youth. Salander is able to use her ability to rationalize about the future to choose to lie to Bjurman about her current employment, ascertaining that he would disapprove of the work and deem her unfit for it. This scene, as well as the information about her troubled youth, suggests that Salander is largely motivated by a desire for self-preservation and independence. Learning other people's secrets and maintaining her private lifestyle are essential factors, in Salander's mind, to achieving these goals.
Finally, Larsson opens a chapter filled with revelations by stating that Blomkvist woke up "late on Epiphany Day." Traditionally, Epiphany Day is the day Christians celebrate the arrival of the Magi to pay testament to the birth of Jesus Christ. In a nonreligious sense, "epiphany" often refers to a moment of sudden understanding. To open a chapter on Epiphany Day and having Blomkvist wake up "late" provides deeper import to the information he gathers in the rest of the chapter. Although Blomkvist is deep in information-gathering mode, he is also already trimming the list of suspects from over 40 to about a dozen. In his efforts on this day, and in the stories he learns, Blomkvist may be missing some sort of revelation — thus being late to an epiphany. What Blomkvist may have disregarded here may prove to be essential later on.