Study Guide

The Danish Girl Identity

By David Ebershoff

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Renewing your driver's license, passport, or identification card is annoying in its own right, and it's even more annoying if you've undergone a major life change, like getting married, getting divorced, or having gender reassignment surgery. Gathering all the paperwork, getting a new photo taken—it can all be exhausting.

Getting a new ID card is also the least stressful part of the process a person goes through to transition from one gender to another. And for Einar Wegener in The Danish Girl to transition to Lili Elbe, he has to break new barriers to do it. After all, he's the first person to receive this surgery ever.

Questions About Identity

  1. What prompts Einar to develop his identity as Lili? Why does he decide to become her entirely?
  2. What distinguishes Einar from Lili as two separate identities?
  3. What does Greta do to establish her own identity, separate from her parents?
  4. How does Greta encourage Einar to develop the Lili side of his personality?

Chew on This

Einar basically runs on autopilot until he discovers Lili. Einar doesn't have much of an identity; Lili is the one with all the personality.

Lili abandons her Einar identity and becomes entirely Lili, while Greta gradually incorporates aspects of her husband's personality into her own.

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