Diary of a Young Girl

by: Anne Frank

Themes

Anne struggles with her two selves throughout the diary, trying to be honest and genuine, while at the same time striving to fit in with the rest of the group and not create too much friction. On January 22, 1944, Anne asks a question—“Can you tell me why people go to such lengths to hide their real selves?”—that suggests she realizes she is not alone in hiding her true feelings and fears. With this realization, Anne starts to read into other people’s behavior more deeply and starts to think about their true but hidden motivations.

In her final diary entry, on August 1, 1944, Anne continues to grapple with the difference between her self-perception and how she presents herself to others. She arrives at a greater resolve to be true to herself and not to fold her heart inside out so only the bad parts show.

Anne’s inner struggle mirrors the larger circumstances of the war. Both the residents of the annex and the Dutch people who help them are forced to hide themselves from the public. They must take on a different identity in public to protect their livelihood because their true identities and actions would make them targets of persecution. This is yet another manifestation of the hypocrisy of identity that Anne is trying to come to terms with in her diary.

Generosity and Greed in Wartime

Anne’s diary demonstrates that war brings out both the best and the worst traits in people. Two characteristics in particular become prominent defining poles of character in the annex—generosity and greed. The group’s livelihood depends on the serious and continual risks taken by their Dutch keepers, who are generous with food, money, and any other resources they can share.

Although the annex is hardly luxurious, the Franks and van Daans feel their situation is better than that of the thousands of Jews who are in mortal danger outside. As a result, they extend Mr. Dussel an invitation to join them and to share their limited resources—an act of true generosity. The fact that Mr. Dussel accepts the others’ offer but never makes any attempt to acknowledge or reciprocate their generosity might be attributed to the extreme circumstances. More likely, however, is that Mr. Dussel is the kind of person in whom hardship brings out the qualities of greed and selfishness. Indeed, the two people Anne most reviles, Mr. Dussel and Mrs. van Daan, share the tendency to look out for themselves far more than to look out for others.

Generosity and greed also come to bear on Anne’s feelings of guilt about being in hiding. Although by the end of their time in the annex the residents have practically run out of food, Anne feels lucky to have escaped the fate of her friends who were sent to concentration camps. She struggles with the idea that perhaps she and her family could have been more generous and could have shared their resources with more people. While Mr. Dussel and Mrs. van Daan feel that greed is the only way to protect themselves from the horrors of war, these same circumstances of hardship inspire Anne to feel even more generous.