Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: Drama, Revised Edition)
The Diary of Anne Frank receives its power from several sources. It is similar to a Bildungsroman, the poignant vision of a young woman’s coming of age, though in a place where her life is threatened. Anne understands her plight but still hopes for a future when the war is over, when she will be able to develop her talents, study art in Paris, fall in love, and have children. She confides to her diary that she longs for fame, to be always remembered. There is irony in this wish. Though she will die a short time later, in the misery of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, she is destined to become one of the most famous women who ever lived.
The values of friendship and loyalty are celebrated in the play. Two Gentiles, Miep and Mr. Kraler, assist those hidden in the annex, despite the hazards to themselves. In a sad world, these loyal people maintain a humane bond across economic and ethnic lines. Anne also lovingly remembers her friends on the outside and listens attentively when Miep brings any news of this now forbidden arena.
Although the chief action of the play takes place in wartime and all but one of its characters will not survive, the final mood is not despair. Anne’s last disembodied words, affirming the goodness of humanity, are a quote from her real-life diary, though they are rendered out of context. They became the motto of the Anne Frank Foundation, which now operates in many nations to promote peace and...
(The entire section is 455 words.)
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The Franks, the Van Daans, and Mr. Dussel are all forced into hiding by the Nazi occupation of Holland. In her diary, Anne chronicles how the Nazis began to take away the rights of the Jews. Mr. Frank lost his business. Jews could not attend schools with non-Jews, go to the movies, or ride on the streetcars. After they go into hiding, the Franks and Van Daans learn from Mr. Dussel that the Nazis have sent all the Jews in Amsterdam to concentration camps. The families’ greatest hope for freedom comes from the Allied invasion of the continent, which is led by the Americans.
The rigor of living under such repressive circumstances is seen on a regular basis. The atmosphere in the cramped, crowded attic rooms grows increasingly tense. They cannot set foot aside or breathe fresh air. Anne cannot run, shout, or jump. Giving in to these natural impulses only gets her into trouble, as when she spills milk on Mrs. Van Daan’s coat while dancing around the room. Anne’s budding friendship with Peter is also repressed by the unnatural situation. When she wants to spend time alone with Peter, she may do so only under six sets of watchful eyes, which follow her as she crosses the room to Peter’s door. The effects of such living conditions strain everyone. In act 2, scene 4, when tensions come to a head with Mrs. Frank’s insistence that Mr. Van Daan quit the attic, Mr. Frank tells them, ‘‘We don’t need the Nazis to destroy...
(The entire section is 720 words.)