The Diary of a Young Girl Analysis

Anne Frank

Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

On June 12, 1942, Anne Frank celebrated her thirteenth birthday. Of the gifts that she received, the one that she liked best was a clothbound diary. Anne and her family lived in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam, and the net of genocide was closing inexorably around them. A few weeks after Anne’s birthday, her sister, Margot, was ordered to report to the reception center for a concentration camp. The family, driven to desperate measures, foresaw their future. They had prepared a space above Otto Frank’s warehouse and office at 263 Prinsengracht, where they planned to hide, aided by loyal Dutch friends. They entered their loft through a door hidden by a bookcase made in anticipation of this eventuality.

The family went into hiding in July, 1942. Anne’s diary, first published in its totality in 1989, reveals that the Frank family had planned to disappear on July 16, but that the situation in The Netherlands became so threatening for Jews that on July 9 they left their apartment and began their twenty-five-month exile at 263 Prinsengracht. In the full version of Anne’s diary, the resettlement of the Frank family, related in some detail, is accompanied by a detailed description of the rooms where the Franks and four other Jews—the Van Daan family (in real life, the Van Pels family) and Dr. Düssel—lived.

The diary, written chronologically with occasional additions and revisions made within some of the entries, exists in two versions because Anne...

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The Diary of a Young Girl Context

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Anne Frank’s diary is a chronicle of a young girl growing to womanhood. At a time when she should have been exploring her world, Anne, an optimistic, bright, gregarious adolescent, was confined with seven other people to a small, enclosed space. Sounds, light through the painted window, or any small miscue put everyone in this hiding place at risk. The concerns of this young girl focused on a society that arbitrarily singled out specific groups of people and marked them for annihilation. The organized madness that marked more than a decade of Hitler’s rule in Germany blurred the lines that usually define human morality. Under Hitler, wrong equaled right, despotism equaled patriotism.

In such a climate, the thirteen-year-old Anne began a diary that suggests extraordinary writing skills in a young woman coping with a hopeless situation by thinking and writing her way around it. Although she cannot be called a feminist writer, Anne Frank stands as a beacon to all people, especially to writers. The diary contains little rancor, because Anne believed that she would prevail in the end. Although she died, she was correct in her assumption: In the end, she has prevailed through her words. Her most lasting monument is the diary that she left behind. Translated into more than forty languages and transformed into drama, it has perhaps made those who have been exposed to it less willing to subscribe to the kind of despotism that marked the era in which Anne Frank grew to womanhood.

The Diary of a Young Girl Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

The Diary of a Young Girl is written in the form of letters to Anne Frank’s imaginary friend, Kitty, telling of daily life and of her thoughts while in the “secret annex” where she and seven other Jews were in hiding after the Nazi invasion of Holland. Although cast in letters, the book is really an autobiographical narrative of Frank’s experiences as she grew up under extremely oppressive conditions. The secret annex consisted of four small rooms with a primitive bathroom and a stove for cooking, concealed at the top and back of a warehouse in central Amsterdam. The book’s original Dutch title, Het Achterhuis, means “the backhouse,” where the entire action takes place.

The Franks had emigrated to Holland in 1933 when the Nazis had come to power and begun to persecute Jews. In July, 1942, together with the Van Daan family, they moved into the secret annex, where they were later joined by Mr. Dussel. They were totally dependent on the kindness and ingenuity of Mr. Koophuis, Mr. Kraler, Miep, and Elli for food and other necessities. Beneath their attic hiding place, there was an office and warehouse, where business was carried out during the day. Consequently, the fugitives had to sit still and silent for hours on end, not daring to speak or move for fear of being discovered. For more than two years, Frank did not leave the hiding place. She longed for fresh air, nature, exercise, and the company of friends; she had only...

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The Diary of a Young Girl Bibliography

(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

Berryman, John. The Freedom of the Poet. New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1976. Berryman’s essay “The Development of Anne Frank” reads the diary as an important document about a girl’s maturation into an adult. Berryman draws heavily upon specific examples from the diary, interpreting them well, sometimes in Freudian terms.

Bettelheim, Bruno. Surviving and Other Essays. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979. In his essay “The Ignored Lesson of Anne Frank,” this noted child psychologist and concentration camp survivor criticizes Otto Frank for not fleeing Holland when he could and for trying to sustain some semblance of normal life for his exiled family. Bettelheim suggests that, once in their situation, the Franks might have armed themselves and had a shoot-out when the Grüne Polizei arrested them.

Ehrenburg, Ill’ia. Chekhov, Stendhal, and Other Essays. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1963. Ehrenburg’s chapter “Anne Frank’s Diary” deals feelingly with Anne’s recollection of her school days and with the personal contradictions that one expects to find in a girl at the formative stage Anne was in when she went into hiding.

Frank, Anne. The Diary of Anne Frank: The Critical Edition. Edited by David Barnouw and Gerrold van der Stroom. Translated by Arnold J. Pomerans and B. M. Mooyaart-Doubleday. New York: Doubleday, 1989. The most important piece of Anne Frank scholarship. Besides offering detailed chapters about the Franks’ background and their arrest and subsequent detention, it provides the only complete version of the diary in its various forms. Indispensable for those seriously interested in Anne Frank research.

Morton, Frederic. “Her Literary Legacy.” The New York Times Book Review, September 20, 1959, 22. In this review of The Works of Anne Frank, Morton attempts an objective assessment of her writing. He concludes that none of it has the power and literary strength of the diary, her best-known book.