Themes and Characters
Mr. and Mrs. Frank and their teen-age daughters Anne and Margot, Mr. and Mrs. Van Daan and their teen-age son Peter, and Mr. Dussel all share the cramped space of the attic refuge. Other important characters are the Dutch— Elli, Miep, Mr. Kraler, and Mr. Koophuis—who risk their own lives to hide the Jews and bring them food.
In her diary, Anne reveals herself as an active, playful tomboy, who at first feels that nothing she does is right. By the conclusion of the story, she has developed maturity and confidence. Uprooted from her home and friends, Anne experiences a nightmarish ordeal, constantly facing the threat of the concentration camps and death. In this tense situation, Anne is constantly surrounded by the same adults, with whom she has frequent conflicts. She favors her father's companionship over her mother's. "Mother doesn't understand me," she protests as her mother tries to communicate with her. Jealous of frequent comparisons with her sister Margot, Anne fights to overcome sibling rivalry. Her relationship with Mrs. Van Daan fluctuates between friendly and antagonistic. An incessant talker, Anne is always at odds with Mr. Dussel, her roommate, who longs for quiet. Despite the endless personality clashes, magnified by the group's claustrophobic quarters, Anne manages to adjust to her plight.
Very much aware of the outside world, Anne listens to radio reports of the war's progress. She fears for her best friend Lies, who has been...
(The entire section is 789 words.)
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Anne Frank is the central figure, whose diary provides all of the material for the book. Because her family is German-Jewish and Hitler's regime is persecuting Jews, Frank's family has left Germany for Holland. They are forced into hiding when Frank is barely thirteen years old. The diary she received for her birthday becomes her confidante in which she can confide her private thoughts and feelings. Frank feels that she has never had a true friend with whom she can be herself and to whom she can reveal her serious side; her popularity in school was based upon her personality, especially her quick wit. Within the pages of her diary, Frank is very honest about her flaws and personal struggles. She has an extremely tense relationship with her mother, often resents her sister, is disrespectful of adult guidance, is impatient with the other residents, and can be overly chatty. Still, Frank is innocent and optimistic, and she has big dreams for herself. She is sensitive and intelligent, and, surprisingly, she is rarely bored while in hiding. She occupies her mind with self-analysis, writing fiction and nonfiction, and pursuing a wide range of studies.
Frank has a contentious relationship with her mother, whereas her relationship with her father is more loving. As Frank matures, she comes to understand how much she hurts her mother, although she continues to maintain distance from her. Frank's feeling that nobody understands her could be described as typical of...
(The entire section is 562 words.)
Edith Frank is Frank's mother. The two have a very strained relationship, stemming from the typical struggles between teenage daughters and their mothers. Mrs. Frank does not understand her daughter's willful ways any better than Frank understands her mother's compliance.
Learning to live in cramped quarters is difficult for Mrs. Frank, who comes from a privileged background and a comfortable lifestyle. She married Mr. Frank in 1925 and is eleven years his junior. Her views on parenting are progressive in comparison to the traditional approaches of the time. She prefers to think of her daughters as friends rather than as subordinates, and she believes in allowing them to express themselves freely. She is frustrated by Frank's open defiance and seeming dislike of her, and she reacts by becoming more critical. Mrs. Frank is like Margot in that they both bear the hardships of their situation in silence, rarely complaining, rarely dreaming of life after the war.
After the raid on the Secret Annex, Mrs. Frank was able to stay with her daughters until their separation at Auschwitz. Once she was alone, the effects of her experiences during the war began to take their toll. Mrs. Frank began to fall apart mentally, hoarding moldy crusts of bread for her husband. She died in her bed on January 6, 1945, only ten days before the guards abandoned the camp.
(The entire section is 224 words.)
Anne's father, Mr. Frank, came from a long line of German Jews. His work in Frankfurt as an independent businessman involved promoting and selling high-end goods, and at the time when he moved his family to Amsterdam, he was a successful managing director of a company that manufactured products used in making jam. It is his business' building in which the group hides, and it is he who makes all the arrangements.
Mr. Frank was an excellent judge of character, as evidenced by his ability to choose which associates he could take into his confidence as he made plans to go into hiding. His plan allowed him to protect his family and friends from the horrors of Nazism for two years, while continuing to play a secret role in running his business. He was a man of foresight, strength, and wisdom, calm in the face of danger. He was also an educated man who oversaw the studies of the three teenagers in the Secret Annex.
Mr. Frank, though from a well-to-do background like his wife, is worldlier than she. His maturity is evident in the course of events detailed in Anne's diary. He had been a soldier in World War I, fighting for Germany as a member of an artillery company. Confronted with the threats to Jews, he reacts rationally and sensibly. Mr. Frank gets along well with the members of the Secret Annex because he strives to treat everyone justly and sensitively.
After the hideaway was raided, Mr. Frank remained calm and rational as he and the...
(The entire section is 367 words.)
Peter Van Daan
Peter is an awkward, self-conscious sixteen-year-old boy. In contrast to Frank, Peter is quiet and generally keeps his thoughts and feelings to himself. In his patrol duties, Peter demonstrates that he is brave and dependable. His tender side is evident in the way he takes care of his cat, Mouschi, and the office cat, Boche.
Peter enjoys his relationship with Frank, but he never fully opens up to her. He prefers solitude and has little in common with Frank beyond their unusual living situation. Where Frank thrives on engaging her mind in writing and studying, Peter finds studies to be a chore. The two also have widely different plans for their futures. Although Frank remarks that she wants to do something great, like become a writer, and see the world, Peter plans to be a gambler or a loafer. This is very disappointing to Frank. Eventually, the two agree to abandon romantic pursuits in favor of a caring friendship.
Peter and Anne's friendship remained strong even after their hiding place was discovered. At the reception camp in Westerbork, the two were often seen together. Once they got to Auschwitz, however, they were separated. When the Auschwitz prison guards fled the camp to avoid the oncoming Allies, they took most of the prisoners with them. Those in the sick ward, however, were spared. Mr. Frank was ill at the time and tried to convince Peter to hide in the sick ward with him until the guards were gone, but Peter was too afraid. He went...
(The entire section is 283 words.)
Other Key Figures
Mr. Dussel is a dentist who joins the group five months after the rest go into hiding and shares a room with Anne. He is an older man who has never married, although he has a long-standing relationship with a Catholic woman whom he misses a great deal. When Mr. Dussel goes into hiding, the woman is informed that he has fled the country, so she doesn't realize that he is still in Amsterdam until the raid on the hiding place. Mr. Dussel is described by Frank as a demanding, unsympathetic, inconsiderate, and fussy person who prefers to be left alone.
Mr. Dussel accompanied the other hideaways to Westerbork and then to Auschwitz. He was later sent back to Germany, where he died at the Neuengamme camp. The cause and date are uncertain.
Frank's older sister by three years, Margot is reserved, disciplined, and studious. Unlike Frank, Margot gets along with both of her parents. While Anne turns to Mr. Frank as a companion, Margot prefers Mrs. Frank. As Anne matures during their stay in hiding, Margot realizes that she and Anne gradually have more in common. Their relationship becomes less characterized by sibling rivalry and more characterized by trust and kindness.
Margot, along with Anne, ended up in Bergen-Belsen, where she fell ill with typhus in February 1945. She had a terrible fever and was in a coma for a few days before she died in her bed.
(The entire section is 1192 words.)