Chapter 4 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 908

Monday, December 23–Thursday, December 26

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Berger and Blomkvist consider their options—and their odds—for hours. On Christmas Eve Blomkvist finally convinces Berger it is best for everyone if he puts some distance between himself and Millennium, and he will work from home. The office is closed for the holidays, so he is surprised when the phone rings. It is Dirch Frode, a lawyer who represents a client who wants to meet with Blomkvist in person. Frode tells him his client is Henrik Vanger, who is eighty-two years old and cannot easily travel; he asks Blomkvist to take the train to Hedestad.

Henrik Vanger is a former industrialist, the head of Vanger Corporation, which includes textiles, steel, and sawmills; he has a reputation for being “an honorable, old-fashioned patriarch who would not bend in the wind.” Over the past twenty-five years, the family-owned business has been plagued by problems that have caused the company to fade into the background of the business world. Frode will only say that Vanger has personal business to discuss and would like to hire Blomkvist for a freelance assignment. The Wennerstrom publicity made Vanger take notice of him. Blomkvist wants to think about it and takes Frode’s number.

Blomkvist is intrigued enough to do some research on Frode and Henrik and Martin Vanger. He prints fifty pages of material and brings it home with his belongings; he does not know if he will ever be back.

Lisbeth Salander spends Christmas Eve at a nursing home. Her mother is forty-six years old and is struggling to unwrap her gifts. Salander looks at her with tenderness but fails to see any resemblance between them in looks or temperament. Lisbeth’s mother asks about her sister who never comes to visit; Lisbeth tells her mother she never sees her sister either. When her mother asks where she is living, Salander reminds her she is living in her mother’s house, having been forced to assume the payments several years ago. Her mother finally gets her gift open and thanks Camilla. Salander reminds her mother that her name is Lisbeth.

Blomkvist spends Christmas Eve with his daughter, Pernilla, at his ex-wife’s house. The couple divorced when Pernilla was five; Blomkvist has always allowed his daughter the freedom to decide how much time she wants to spend with him. They get along well, and she is convinced he is innocent of the charges. She tells him she has a “sort-of boyfriend” and has joined a church. He does not comment, and he does not stay for dinner.

Although he was invited to celebrate Christmas Eve with the Beckmans, he chooses to spend the evening with his sister’s family. Annika Giannini is now a prominent feminist and women’s right lawyer and activist. In a quiet moment, Annika asks her brother if he is all right and tells him to get a “real lawyer” next time, then she hugs him. He calls Frode to say he is interested enough to make the journey.

Frode picks him up at the train station and delivers him to Vanger. Blomkvist immediately turns on his tape recorder and Vanger simply asks him to listen before he decides. One room of the study is a wall of bookshelves; on another wall, rows of pressed flowers are hung meticulously. On the edge of the desk is a photo of a young girl. Vanger tells Blomkvist he was here before, when Vanger hired Blomkvist’s father to install machinery for the paper mill. The family stayed in a guest home on the property. Blomkvist has no recollection of this.

He understands he is being manipulated and gives the old man thirty minutes to make his case. Vanger chose Blomkvist because he appears to be a man of integrity. Martin Vanger is a good man, Henrik begins, but he is poorly equipped to maintain the company’s success. Vanger says he detests his family because they are primarily “thieves, misers, bullies, and incompetents”; he ran his company despite them rather than with them. He wants Blomkvist to write the family history; he wants a record of how his family of enemies caused the demise of his company.

The journalist is not interested in such a time-consuming task, but he listens. Vanger wants him to solve a mystery. To tempt him, he tells the story of his brother, Richard, who joined a Swedish Nazi group at seventeen; he died a Nazi martyr in 1940. He was a bully and beat his wife and his son, Gottfried, who was thirteen when his father was killed. Richard was a dark, fanatical man. Gottfried was indolent, though Vanger tried to inspire and motivate him. He married Isabella, an irresponsible party girl who left her two children to fend for themselves. Gottfried became an alcoholic and drowned in 1965. Isabella is still alive. Martin is Gottfried’s son; Harriet, the woman in the photo, is his daughter. Because their parents virtually abandoned them, the childless Henrik took them in and raised them as his own children.

It appeared Martin would follow his father’s path, but he straightened out and is a credible CEO of the weakened Vanger Corporation. Harriet, on the other hand, was talented and intelligent. Henrik determined that she was destined to become leader of the Vanger business. Now he wants Blomkvist to discover who murdered Harriet and has spent the past forty years attempting to “drive him insane.”

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