Study Guide

The Danish Girl Perseverance

By David Ebershoff

Perseverance

Chapter 3
Baron Hans Axgil

"Dreams shouldn't be shared," Hans told Einar one day when teaching him to climb the ancient oak that grew on the edge of the bog. (3.12)

Hans isn't trying to discourage his friend here; he's trying to warn him that if he talks about his dreams, other people will try to discourage him. Einar is lucky to have people like Hans and Greta in his life. When he wants to become Lili, neither person ever discourages him, not even once.

Chapter 12

But how could she remain married to a man who sometimes wanted to live as a woman? I'm not going to let something like that stop me, she told herself, her sketchbook in her lap. (12.16)

Many women would give up and walk away in Greta's shoes, but not Greta. She is determined to stay with Einar, and as we see in this line, she uses her art to stay on track. A less determined woman wouldn't paint one hundred paintings of the same subject.

If she'd ever promised herself anything, it was that she'd never let her husband simply slip away. (12.14)

Greta doesn't want to repeat past mistakes. She feels like she failed her first husband by not forcing him to go the doctor, so she doubles down on Einar, finding him a doctor who can help him.

Chapter 15

What was it Greta was always saying? Worst thing in the world is to give up! (15.47)

Einar borrows Greta's determination here. Her perseverance is contagious and inspiring.

"I think I know of some others. I'll pull them for you in the morning. They might be what you're looking for." She paused. "I mean, if that's what you want." (15.51)

Einar isn't very determined, so it's the perseverance of others that get him through. This minor librarian character, featured only in a couple of paragraphs, brings him book after book to help him study up on gender identity.

Chapter 16

I must take Lili to Dresden. She and I will have to go. (16.49)

Greta's determination really shines through in short declarative sentences like these. "I must." "I will." Greta doesn't need colorful adjectives and fancy verbs to show what she needs to do.

Chapter 17

"We've got to at least try." (17.94)

Here we see Carlisle exhibiting some of his family's perseverance. It must run in the family since Greta has it and Carlisle does, too. Plus their mother, the few times Greta thinks of her, is insanely stubborn, which is the flip side of the same coin.

Chapter 27

"We believed it, and now look at me. It happened because we knew it could." (27.71)

Lili is more determined than Einar ever was. However, in a cruel twist of irony, her perseverance to have the final surgery in the end is also what ends up killing her.

Greta Wegener

"Please get her." Greta wouldn't look at him, her voice quieter than usual. (9.15)

Greta has a quiet determination, and Hans knows that when she uses this voice, she is going to get what she wants.

What was it Carlisle used to say about her? No stopping good old Greta once she gets going. No one can stop her at all. (14.21)

Greta has a reputation for not stopping. Her husband knows it, her brother knows it, and her friends know it. You go, girl.