Study Guide

The Danish Girl Love

By David Ebershoff

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Chapter 4

[Teddy] was the second man Greta loved. (4.16)

Greta isn't the type of person to love easily. Perhaps this is one reason she holds onto Einar and will do anything for him—if she didn't, she'd be alone. She is more comfortable leaving Lili at the end when she has Hans to move on to.

Chapter 5
Einar Wegener/Lili Elbe

"You won't leave me?" Lili asked Greta.

"Never." (5.8-5.9)

We don't think Greta is lying here, even though she does eventually leave Lili. She can leave Lili and still love her and hold her in a special place in her heart.

Chapter 18

She suddenly wondered whom she loved more, Einar or Teddy Cross. […] Whom did she love more, Greta asked herself. (18.16)

Why does Greta ask herself this question? What does it matter? But since she asks it, who do you think Greta loves more, and why does she care?

Part 3, Chapter 19

It was hard for him to say, but he thought that he might not have the courage to go through with it if Greta was with him; she would have reminded him too much of their previous life. They'd been happy, he kept telling himself. Einar and Greta had been in love. (19.6)

Notice that Einar thinks of himself in the third person here. Einar was in love Greta; Lili was not. But this doesn't necessarily mean that Lili doesn't love Greta—it's just a different kind of love than Einar felt for Greta.

Chapter 20

Lili longed for something similar to happen to her. Yes, she told herself. It will be like that with me: instant love; helpless, regrettable passion. (20.90)

Lili is very young. Einar creates a fake age for her that is younger than his real age, plus she is only a couple years old in terms of Einar's conception of her. So she longs for the type of romance straight out of a young-adult novel.

Chapter 22

[Greta] moved even closer to Lili. Once again, Greta was filled with a need to hold her, and she took Lili's head between her hands. (22.74)

Greta loves Lili more like a mother might love a daughter than a wife would love a husband or wife.

Part 4, Chapter 24
Einar Wegener/Lili Elbe

"Do you think I'll ever fall in love?" Lili had begun to ask, as spring returned and the gray seeped out of the harbor, replaced by the blue. "Do you think something like that could happen even to me?" (24.4)

Nothing says hope quite like springtime imagery with its blooms and blue skies. Here, it's subtly foreshadowed that yes, Lili will find love before the book ends.

Wasn't that the inexhaustible struggle for Greta? Her perpetual need to be alone but always loved, and in love. (24.4)

This is a crucial conundrum for Greta: She likes her me time, but she needs to have someone to love as well. It's tough to keep the two in balance, but we think she does a good job at it, even if it means she always puts others before herself.

It was then that Greta realized they were at the foot of the steps where she and Einar had first kissed, and fell in love. […] Then everything fell silent again, and something in the imperceptible passed from Hans to her, and out the window, in the courtyard, in the long shadow of the academy, the boy with the blue scarf kissed his girl, again and again, and yet again. (24.21)

Here is another moment of writing in which the incidental action—here a nameless boy and girl kissing on the lawn—illustrates the moment Greta realizes that she is falling in love with Hans.

Next to [Greta], Einar felt small, as if he were her son, looking up beyond her chin to her eyes, reaching for a hanging hand. (1.34)

Einar and Greta love each other more like mother and son than they do husband and wife. She wants to take care of him like a child instead of embracing him with the passionate love often associated with marriage.

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