Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, or literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text’s major themes.

Becoming a Woman

Anne is thirteen years old when she first goes into hiding in the annex, and she turns fifteen shortly before the family’s arrest. Thus, her diary is a powerful firsthand record of the experience of a young girl as she matures. Although Anne faces the challenges of puberty under unusual circumstances, the issues she struggles with are universal. She frequently contemplates the changes in her body and her psychology. Because Anne does not readily confide in her mother or her sister, she turns to her diary to understand the changes she perceives and to question issues about sexuality and maturity. In later entries, as Anne begins to see herself as an independent woman, she compares herself to her mother and to other women of her mother’s generation, imagining what she will be like in the future. She often thinks about what it means to be a woman and a mother, typically using her mother as an example of the type of woman she does not want to become. Instead, Anne seeks to overcome the obstacles of gender bias and prejudice, just as she hopes to escape the persecution faced by the Jewish people.


The Franks and the van Daans are fortunate enough to have made advance plans to go into hiding should the need arise, but they still know they are not completely safe from the Nazis. Their security depends on the cooperation of many different people outside the annex, as well as a good amount of luck and hope. Their fear grows each time the doorbell rings, there is a knock on their door, or they hear that there is a break-in at the office building. They hear reports from the outside world about their friends who are arrested and about non-Jews who are suffering from a lack of food. As the war rages on around them, all people—Jews and non-Jews—suffer. Anne knows that her family’s situation is precarious, and she spends much of her time trying to distract herself from this frightening reality. However, each scare does color her diary entries. She knows what would happen to her and her family if they were discovered, and this fear that permeates life in the annex likewise permeates the tone of Anne’s diary.

The Holidays

The Franks, the van Daans, and Albert Drussel celebrate many holidays and exchange gifts during the two years they spend in the annex including birthdays, Hanukkah, and St. Nicholas Day. The holiday motif throughout The Diary of Anne Frank has significant implications. Their commitment to honoring various holidays while hiding in the annex demonstrates their resilience as they continue to find reasons to celebrate in the midst of so much sorrow and fear. The passages in the diary in which Anne describes the group lighting the Hanukkah candles is especially moving because they are using their rationed candles to honor a religious holiday that they could be persecuted for celebrating.