Introduction to The Diary of a Young Girl
The book comprises the diary writing of a young Jewish girl, Anne Frank, during the days of her family’s refuge in a specifically created place, the annex, adjacent to their firm. The diary was addressed to an imaginary friend named ‘Kitty’ with whom she could share her deepest thoughts. The book was originally written in Dutch but was later translated into several other European and eastern languages on account of the popularity it won among the Holocaust literature. Miep Gies, the original retriever of the story, handed it over to the girl’s father, Otto Frank, who survived the concentration camp of Bergin-Belsen where she died of typhus. The diary was first published in 1947 in the Netherlands and later published in the United States in 1955, while its first movie appeared on the screen in 1959.
Summary of The Diary of a Young Girl
The story begins with the 13th birthday of Anne Frank on the 12th of June, 1942, spanning over two years of the time they spent in the annex adjacent to the factory. She presents the typical story of her experiences with her friends, her relations, her love stories, and her achievements in the Jewish Lyceum where she studied with her sister, Margot. The diary states that they move to the Netherlands shortly before WWII on account of their persecution at the hands of the Nazis in Germany. However, shortly after that the Netherlands also faces the Nazi attack where they are forced to go into hiding with the van Danns, another Jewish family. The Annex where they live behind the swinging bookcase for two years having food stored and supplies available. The factory’s employees help them during their refuge and assist them until somebody leaks the information, leading to their arrest.
The families living in the annex stay tune to the radio available to them to hear the news about the war. Some of the revelations come from Anne’s diary about her thoughts of the events unfolding at that time. Although Mr. Dussel and other adults stay optimistic, they sometimes become depressed by the German advances against the Allied forces. Soon they come to know the food shortage in the city impacting them and occasional robberies becoming frequent in the city. One biting feeling coming to Anne is about her loneliness in the annex. She finds herself at odds with other adults living in the annex, specifically her mother, who is quite cold, while she expresses her profound love for her father. Other adults find her having childlike behavior. About her sister, she thinks that she is sociable and smart but does not write more than this. However, with the van Dann boy, Peter, she forms a close bond. She also becomes friends with Peter Schiff whom she called ‘Petel’. She often confused them both in her mind. As for Peter Van Dann, she mentions him as ‘her love’. Even though he seemed boring and uninteresting in the beginning after spending time with him she understands that he is a dreamer and has high hopes in life just like her. However, seeing her father’s opposition to this relationship, she experiences ebbs and flows in her feelings toward him.
Furthermore, Anne also lists her interests and activities during her stay in the annex. She presents the basic activities that keep their thoughts diverted from their likely persecution. Through the passing of time, her writing becomes more mature. Despite her hard thinking, she finds it difficult to understand the odd happenings in which only the Jews are being singled out for extermination and torture. Her German identity goes against her present condition, she writes, adding that although the Netherlands has extended refuge to her family, she considers herself a German citizen. Despite presenting an individual perspective of the Jewish side of the story, she has kept her unique individuality and wished to be seen as one too. She learns that once the war ends personal accounts of journals like hers will have significant demand for the experiences that people have faced. She starts to edit her entries by being more optimistic.
The duration of the two years of confinement in the annex shows the young girl dealing with the deprivations and frustrations of living in a confined space during the difficult circumstances her race faces. The diary presents the struggle of the young girl about that inexplicable phenomenon of the senseless oppression at the hands of the Germans, her own compatriots, though religiously different. The diary ends on the first of August, 1944 abruptly when it seems that some mole has informed the Nazis, leading to their arrest. Later when Miep recovers the diary, Otto Frank, the only survivor, decides to arrange its publication causing a worldwide uproar about the Holocaust and senseless brutality of the Nazis as per Anne’s wishes.
Major Themes in The Diary of a Young Girl
- Coming of Age: The Diary of a Young Girl is a coming-of-age story in which Anne describes her life events of just two years’ duration to show how she had to miss her childhood and grew up within a short span of time during the tumultuous events of her life. Her problems or typical of teenagers; the conflict for space, gender identity, sexuality, and privacy. She questions everything during that long span of refuge in the annex where she lives with her family and the family of Peter, her boyfriend. Her major struggle, however, is inward that is to her own edification vis-à-vis her family and the other family living with them. However, by the end, she concludes that she may not become what others want but may become what she likes herself to be.
- Identity: The quizzical attitude of Anne toward herself about her personality shows that she is struggling with the identity crisis in that little annex. She questions her sufferings, her personality type, her virtuosity, her behavior toward others, and her tormentors. The questions make her realize her racial as well as gender identity, showing her how people perceive her and how she should make herself a distinct persona to be perceived favorably.
- Racial Consciousness: Anne Frank presents her racial awareness obliquely through her Jewishness when writing her diary. The question of her race often comes up in the confinement that is specifically associated with her being a Jewish girl in the Netherlands. This becomes more apparent when she mentions her former boyfriend, Harry Goldberg, who is a member of a Jewish movement committed to the revival of the Jewish heritage. Later, she meets Peter, who is determined on keeping his heritage a secret. These conflicting views about her Jewish consciousness remain in her mind when the diary ends.
- Anti-Semitism: The thematic strand of anti-Semitism is apparent when Anne recalls her city in Germany and the Nazi hatred against the Jews. This shows that the entire history of the Jews being pariahs in Europe has come into full display through her diary. Even the abrupt end and ensuing commentary on her death demonstrate this theme lurking behind her bitter memories of Germany.
- Virtuous Life: The main struggle of Anne Frank at this age is with virtue and its reality in the world. When her parents compare her behavior with her elder sister, Margot, she learns that self-effacing is virtue yet she learns something about principles from her father who stands tall among others. This struggle also comes into sharp contrast when she compares her father’s virtuosity with that of Peter, her boyfriend in the annex.
- Brutalities of War: The theme of the brutalities of war in Europe becomes significant in the backdrop of Anne’s life in the annex where they have been forced to live after the declaration of war on the Netherlands and the Nazis capture the city of Amsterdam. The war’s ravages do not stay limited to the fronts but enter the main city in the shape of the Nazi raids on the Jewish hideouts. The constant refrain of “after the war” reverberates throughout the diary to make the readers aware of how it impacts the teenagers physically, spiritually, and psychologically.
- Duty: Almost all the members of both families learn a person’s duty to one’s race and country. Anne particularly learns that as she is trapped with others she must be a good girl to go along with others and save all. That is why she tries to emulate her father instead of her meek mother.
- Isolation: Despite being the hallmark of the days of the young girl, Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl, presents human isolation not only biting but also very fertile in making a person a good human being. Anne Frank learns how she can turn her isolation into fruitful activities of writing her daily journal and learn self-analysis.
- Suffering: The reverberation about the war outside the annex goes inside as well. As it has the tones of racial discrimination, the families, the Franks and the van Danns, trapped inside the annex, feel the suffering of being caught alive. This also becomes one of the major themes of the novel.
Major Characters The Diary of a Young Girl
- Anne Frank: Anne Frank is a 13-year-old protagonist of the novel, The Diary of a Young Girl, and also the main character who shows her interests and life of what could’ve been from her perspective, Jewishness, suffering, and isolation to the world through her diary. Belonging to the German town of Frankfurt, she reaches Amsterdam with her family when the German land and behavior becomes intolerable for the Jews. However, the war brought by Hitler on the Netherland forces the family to go into hiding in the annex of the firm Otto Frank, her father has set up where she hides with another family, loves her father and gives expression to her gender and love with Peter. The diary ends with her arrest.
- Mr. Otto Frank: Otto Frank, the father of Anne Frank, the protagonist, is a man of exceptional abilities and valued principles. He loves doing business but the German atmosphere after the Nazi rise becomes intolerable for the Jews. He leaves Frankfurt to raise his family on his expertise and starts another firm but the war soon knocks at their door even in the Netherlands. However, he shows this exceptionalism during the hiding, the reason that his daughter becomes enamored with his behavior, principles, and unusual grit. It could be the behavior suitable for a person to survive such ravages of war and he displayed commendably.
- Peter van Daan: Peter is also an important character as Anne’s boyfriend in the annex but he cannot be termed a hero. He is not a brave one in the face of the crisis in the one-sided love story of Anne. Being the only boy in the annex could be the reason for his becoming the attraction of Anne’s, though he shows timid nature even when his family is with him. When both families face arrest, he disappears during the long march toward the concentration camp.
- Margot Frank: Margot becomes significant in the course of the diary on account of the cooperative and exemplary behavior that her mother presents before Anne. While Anne loves her sister dearly, she also becomes jealous of her perfection. Margo is the one who faces the Germans during their arrest, giving them a chance to retreat to the annex. She dies in the Belsen camp later.
- Mrs. Frank: As a motherly figure, Mrs. Frank plays her part excellently despite belonging to a well-to-do family. However, from Anne’s point of view, she is a peacemaker who is not doing well with her by comparing her to Margot. During their stay in the annex, she stays reasonable and advises all others including her own children to stay calm and peaceful. She later dies in the camp after their arrest.
- Mr. van Daan: A partner of Mr. Frank in his firm, Mr. van Dann also takes refuge along with his family in the annex adjacent to the firm. Anne thinks he is posing himself as Mr. Know-All though she hates his wife the most. He later dies in Auschwitz.
- Mrs. van Daan: Mrs. van Daan belongs to the poor status of the Netherland who marries Mr. van Dann but she flirts with Frank later when Anne observes her attitude. Anne considers her equal to her mother, having no mothering skills when it comes to her or Peter.
- Albert Dussel: The significance of Albert Dussel lies in that he stays with Anne, driving her crazy with his nightly activities. Professionally, he is a dentist but he later dies in the concentration camp when he is arrested around the time of the last diary entry.
- Mr. Koophius: The significance of Mr. Koophius in The Diary of a Young Girl lies in the cooperation he extends to Franks for taking refuge in the annex and keeping it a secret. He also faces arrest but is released later due to deteriorating health conditions.
- Mr. Kraler: Mr. Kraler’s significance in the novel lies in the role he plays in arranging a safe refuge for the van Danns and the Frank family in the annex near their firm. He stays firm and calm even when he is arrested at the end.
Writing Style of The Diary of a Young Girl
The writing style of the Diary of a Young Girl is linear and smooth but with a reflective approach as the 13-year-old, Anne Frank pens down her thoughts without any hesitance. It seems like a glimpse into her hiding, which can be related to other Jewish families in hiding. As for the literary skills, Anne has shown brilliant use of sentence style and diction that suits the purpose of the writer to reach out to the modern audiences to bring home to them her point of view about the unfairness of treatment toward the Jews. However, it is an amazingly mature style that has become a subject of wider studies despite being very easy to understand and follow.
Analysis of the Literary Devices in The Diary of a Young Girl
- Action: The main action of the novel comprises just two years of the life of Anne Frank during the family’s refuge in the annex adjacent to their firm. The rising action occurs when the family faces arrest by the end. Therefore, there is no falling action as the end itself is a falling action.
- Allusion: The novel shows good use of different allusions as given in the below examples,
i. My sister Margot was born in Frankfurt am Main in Germany in 1926. I was born on June 12, 1929. I lived in Frankfurt until I was four. Because we’re Jewish, my father immigrated to Holland in 1933. (SATURDAY, JUNE 20, 1942)
ii. At the moment, Mother’s reading Gentlemen, Wives, and Servants, and of course I’m not allowed to read it (though Margot is!). (MONDAY, SEPTEMBRER 21, 1942)
iii. Fine specimens of humanity, those Germans, and to think I’m actually one of them!
No, that’s not true, Hitler took away our nationality long ago. And besides, there are no greater enemies on earth than the Germans and the Jews. (OCTOBER 9, 1942)
iv. Then came the Bible, Noah’s Ark, Shem, Ham and Japheth. After that, Charles V.
Then, with Peter, Thack- eray’s book about the colonel, in English. A French test,
and then a comparison between the Mississippi and the Missouri! (THURSDAY, APRIL 27, 1944)
The first example shows the reference to a city, the second to a book, and the third to a geographical location and a person, Hitler as well as two races, the Germans and the Jews.
- Antagonist: The Nazi regime in Germany and Hitler are the antagonists of the novel as the regime has tried its best to obliterate the entire Jewish race from Europe.
- Conflict: The novel shows both external and internal conflicts. The external conflict is going on between the Nazi regime and the Jewish race on the one hand and the Nazi army and Anne’s family on the other hand. The internal conflict is going on in Anne’s mind about her mother’s attitude, her father’s love, and her feelings about Peter Van Daan.
- Characters: The novel, The Diary of a Young Girl, shows both static as well as dynamic characters. The young girl, Anne Frank, is a dynamic character as she shows a considerable transformation in her behavior and conduct by the end of her diary. However, all other characters are static as they do not show or witness any transformation such as Mr. Otto Frank, Mrs. Frank, Margot, and Peter.
- Climax: The climax in the novel occurs when a mole blows the whistle and the families hiding in the annex are arrested.
- Foreshadowing: The novel shows many instances of foreshadows as given in the below examples,
i. Today I have nothing but dismal and depressing news to report. Our many Jewish
friends and acquaintances are being taken away in droves. The Gestapo is treating
them very roughly and transporting them in cattle cars to Westerbork. (OCTOBER 9, 1942)
ii. The British have finally scored a few successes in Africa and Stalingrad hasn’t fallen yet, so the men are happy and we had coffee and tea this morning. For the rest, nothing special to report. (TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 1942)
The mention of depression, the Jews, and the Gestapo in the first and then of WWII shows the shadows of the coming events.
- Hyperbole: The novel shows various examples of hyperboles. One of the examples is given below,
She’s the one whose tactless comments and cruel jokes about matters I don’t think are funny have made me insensitive to any sign of love on her part. Just as my heart sinks every time I hear her harsh words, that’s how her heart sank when she realized there was no more love between us. (FRIDAY, APRIL 2, 1943)
The example shows the pounding of her heart exaggerated.
- Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example,
i. Then a bouquet of roses, some peonies and a potted plant. From Daddy and Mama I got a blue blouse, a game, a bottle of grape juice, which to my mind tastes a bit like wine (after all, wine is made from grapes), a puzzle, a jar of cold cream, 2.50 guilders and a gift certificate for two books. (SUNDAY, JUNE 14, 1942)
ii. My eyes were clear and deep, my cheeks were rosy, which they hadn’t been in weeks, my mouth was much softer. I looked happy, and yet there was something so sad in my expression that the smile immediately faded from my lips. I’m not happy, since I know Petel’s not thinking of me, and yet I can still feel his beautiful eyes gazing at me and his cool, soft cheek against mine. (FRIDAY, JANUARY 7, 1944)
These two examples show the use of different images such as feeling, touch, and sight.
- Metaphor: The Diary of a Young Girl shows good use of various metaphors as given the below examples,
i. I wander from room to room, climb up and down the stairs and feel like a songbird whose wings have been ripped off and who keeps hurling itself against the bars of its dark cage. (FRIDAY, OCTOBER 29, 1943)
ii. At the moment, the tempestuous quarrels have subsided; only Dussel and the van
Daans are still at loggerheads. When Dussel is talking about Mrs. van D., he invariably calls her’ ‘that old bat” or “that stupid hag,” and conversely, Mrs. van D. refers to our ever so learned gentleman as an “old maid” or a “touchy neurotic spinster, etc. The pot calling the kettle black! (WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 3, 1943)
These examples show that several things are compared directly in the novel such as the first shows comparing herself with a songbird and the second shows comparing Mr. van Daan and Mrs. van Dann to a pot and a kettle respectively.
- Mood: The novel shows various moods; it starts with quite a somber and bitter mood but turns out to be highly exciting at times and tragic when it reaches the end toward their arrests.
- Motif: Most important motifs of the novel, The Diary of a Young Girl, are adulthood, fear, refuge, and death.
- Narrator: The novel is a journal, narrated in the first-person point of view and written by Anne Frank.
- Personification: The novel shows examples of personifications. For example,
“Paper has more patience than people.” I thought of this saying on one of those days when I was feeling a little depressed and was sitting at home with my chin in my hands, bored and listless, wondering whether to stay in or go out. I finally stayed where I was, brooding. Yes, paper does have more patience, and since I’m not planning to let anyone else read this stiff-backed notebook grandly referred to as a “diary,” unless I should ever find a real friend, it probably won’t make a bit of difference. (SATURDAY, JUNE 20, 1942)
ii. Bep has to stay home, the door will remain locked and we’ll have to be as quiet as mice so the Keg Company won’t hear us. At one o’clock Jan will come for half an hour to check on us poor forsaken souls, like a zookeeper. (THURSDAY, MARCH 16, 1944)
These examples show as if the watches and the trees have feelings and lives of their own.
- Protagonist: Anne Frank is the protagonist of the novel. The novel starts with her entry as she starts writing her diary and ends when she is arrested along with her family, as the diary abruptly comes to an end.
- Rhetorical Questions: The novel shows good use of rhetorical questions at several places. For example,
i. Margot is sixteen — apparently they want to send girls her age away on their own. But thank goodness she won’t be going; Mother had said so herself, which must be what Father had meant when he talked to me about our going into hiding. Hiding. . . where would we hide? In the city? In the country? In a house? In a shack? When, where, how. . . ? These were questions I wasn’t allowed to ask, but they still kept running through my mind.. (WEDNESDAY JULY 8, 1942)
ii. But who can assure us that this war, which has caused nothing but pain and sorrow, will then be over? And that nothing will have happened to us and our helpers long before that time? No one! (SUNDAY, MAY 2, 1943)
This example shows the use of rhetorical questions posed but different characters not to elicit answers but to stress upon the underlined idea.
- Setting: The setting of the novel, The Diary of a Young Girl, is Frankfurt, Germany, and the Netherlands.
- Simile: The novel shows good use of various similes. For example,
i. Miep has so much to carry she looks like a pack mule. (SUNDAY, JULY 11, 1943)
ii. Oh, he can hiss like a cat. . . but I’d rather he didn’t. Once you’ve seen it, you never want to see it again. (MONDAY, AUGUST 9, 1953)
iii. What a hot and strong grasp he had! and how like quarried marble was his pale, firm, massive front at this moment! (XXVII)
iv. Dussel complained to Mother that he was being treated like a leper, that no one was friendly to him and that, after all, he hadn’t done anything to deserve it. (WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 29, 1943)
These are similes as the use of the word “like” shows the comparison between different things as Miep is compared to a mule, the person to a cat, the face to marble, and then treatment like that of a leper.