Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas explored in a literary work.
Anne Frank’s perpetual feeling of being lonely and misunderstood provides the impetus for her dedicated diary writing and colors many of the experiences she recounts. Even in her early diary entries, in which she writes about her many friends and her lively social life, Anne expresses gratitude that the diary can act as a confidant with whom she can share her innermost thoughts. This might seem an odd sentiment from such a playful, amusing, and social young girl, but Anne explains that she is never comfortable discussing her inner emotions, even around close friends. Despite her excitement over developing into a woman, and despite the specter of war surrounding her, Anne nonetheless finds that she and her friends talk only about trivial topics.
We learn later in the diary that neither Mrs. Frank nor Margot offers much to Anne in the way of emotional support. Though Anne feels very connected to her father and derives strength and encouragement from him, he is not a fitting confidant for a thirteen-year-old girl. Near the end of her diary, Anne shares a quotation she once read with which she strongly agrees: “Deep down, the young are lonelier than the old.” Because young people are less able than adults to define or express their needs clearly, they are more likely to feel lonely, isolated, and misunderstood. Living as a Jew in an increasingly anti-Jewish society, in cramped and deprived circumstances, heightens the isolation Anne feels and complicates her struggle for identity.
Anne occasionally turns to the cats that live in the annex for affection. Noticing that Peter van Daan also plays with the cats, Anne speculates that he must also suffer from a lack of affection. Anne’s observation softens her view of Peter, whom she once considered obnoxious and lazy, and these thoughts cause her to think that they might have something in common. Their ensuing friendship and budding romance stave off their feelings of loneliness. Margot, who like the other members of the annex witnesses the changing nature of Anne and Peter’s relationship, expresses her jealousy that Anne has found a confidant. Evidently, Anne is not the only one in the annex suffering from the deprivation of friends.
Feelings of loneliness and isolation also play out in the larger scheme of the annex. All the inhabitants feel anxious, fearful, and stressed because of their circumstances, yet no one wants to burden the others with such depressing feelings. As a result, the residents become impatient with one another over trivial matters and never address their deeper fears or worries. This constant masking and repression of serious emotions creates isolation and misunderstanding between all the residents of the annex.
Anne frequently expresses her conviction that there are “two Annes”: the lively, jovial, public Anne whom people find amusing or exasperating; and the sentimental, private Anne whom only she truly knows. As she comes to understand her actions and motivations better over the course of her writing, Anne continually refers to this aggravating split between her inward and outward character.
Anne is aware of this dichotomy from a young age. In her early diary entries she explains that though she has many friends and acquaintances, she feels she does not have one person to whom she can really open up. She regrets that she does not share her true self with her friends or family. Anne expresses frustration that she does not know how to share her feelings with others, and she fears that she is vulnerable to attacks on her character. When her relationship with Peter begins, Anne wonders whether he will be the first one to see through the outer, public Anne and find her true self beneath.