Diary of a Young Girl
Analysis of Major Characters
When Anne Frank is given a diary for her thirteenth birthday, she immediately fills it with the details of her life: descriptions of her friends, boys who like her, and her classes at school. Anne finds comfort writing in her diary because she feels she has difficulty opening up to her friends and therefore has no true confidants. Anne also records her perceptions of herself. She does not think she is pretty, but she is confident that her personality and other good traits make up for it. Through her writing, Anne comes across as playful and comical but with a serious side.
Anne’s diary entries show from the outset that she is content and optimistic despite the threats and danger that her family faces. The tone and substance of her writing change considerably while she is in hiding. Anne is remarkably forthright and perceptive at the beginning of the diary, but as she leaves her normal childhood behind and enters the dire and unusual circumstances of the Holocaust, she becomes more introspective and thoughtful.
During her first year in the annex, Anne struggles with the adults, who constantly criticize her behavior and consider her “exasperating.” Anne feels extremely lonely and in need of kindness and affection, which she feels her mother is incapable of providing. She also wrestles with her inner self and considers what type of person she wants to become as she enters womanhood. Anne tries to understand her identity in the microcosm of the annex and attempts to understand the workings of the cruel world outside. As she matures, Anne comes to long not for female companionship, but intimacy with a male counterpart. She becomes infatuated with Peter, the van Daan’s teenage son, and comes to consider him a close friend, confidant, and eventually an object of romantic desire.
In her final diary entries, Anne is particularly lucid about the changes she has undergone, her ambitions, and how her experience is changing her. She has a clear perspective of how she has matured during their time in the annex, from an insolent and obstinate girl to a more emotionally independent young woman. Anne begins to think about her place in society as a woman, and her plans for overcoming the obstacles that have defeated the ambitions of women from previous generations, such as her mother. Anne continues to struggle with how she can be a good person when there are so many obstacles in her world. She writes eloquently about her confusion over her identify, raising the question of whether she will consider herself Dutch, as she hears that the Dutch have become anti-Semitic. Anne thinks philosophically about the nature of war and humanity and about her role as a young Jewish girl in a challenging world. From her diary, it is clear that she had the potential to become an engaging, challenging, and sophisticated writer.
In Anne’s eyes, Mr. Frank is one of the kindest, smartest, most gentle and thoughtful fathers imaginable. He almost always supports Anne and frequently takes her side during family arguments. He is generous, kind, and levelheaded, while the other adults in the annex can be stingy, harsh, and emotional. Unlike Mr. Dussel, for example, Mr. Frank always tries to save the best food for the children and takes the smallest portion for himself.
Anne feels a special closeness to her father, since she sees herself as more similar to him than to her mother or sister. Anne continually tries to impress her father, live up to his expectations, and obey his wishes. However, when she begins a close relationship with Peter, her father deems it inappropriate, and he asks her to stop visiting Peter in the upstairs part of the annex. Anne is very hurt that her father is so conservative, protective, and secretive about sexuality, and she is upset that he does not approve of her relationship. Out of respect for her father and in an attempt to please him, Anne begins to spend less time with Peter.
Otto was a smart, resourceful, and caring father, as well as a talented businessman. He had a strong character and was clearly the head of the Frank household. The only resident of the annex to survive the war, Otto remained in Auschwitz until it was liberated by Russian troops in 1945. He returned to Holland, where he receives Anne’s diary. He remained in Holland until 1953, when he moved to Basel, Switzerland, to join his sister’s family. He married another Auschwitz survivor and devoted the rest of his life to promoting Anne’s diary.
Anne has very little sympathy for her mother during their tumultuous years in the annex, and she has few kind words to say about her, particularly in the earlier entries. Anne feels that her mother is cold, critical, and uncaring, that they have very little in common, and that her mother does not know how to show love to her children. Like Margot, Mrs. Frank is mentioned almost exclusively in instances when she is the source of Anne’s anger and frustration. Anne rarely comments on her mother’s positive traits.
Later in her diary, however, Anne attempts to look at her mother’s life as a wife and mother from a more objective viewpoint. As Anne gets older and gains a clearer perspective, she begins to regret her quick, petty judgments of her mother. Anne has more sympathetic feelings for Mrs. Frank and begins to realize how Mrs. Frank’s gender and entrapment in the annex have created many obstacles for her. Despite her new perspective, Anne continues to feel estranged from her sentimental, critical mother and irrevocably deems her unfit. It seems that Mrs. Frank’s inability to provide emotional support for her daughter stems in part from the stress and pain of the persecution and forced confinement. Because the diary consists of only Anne’s thoughts and perspectives, we are never able to gain much insight into Mrs. Frank’s own personal thoughts or feelings.