Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1471
Mr. Dussel is the dentist who comes to live with the Franks and the Van Daans after they have been in hiding about two months. He is a neighbor of Miep’s boyfriend, and when the Nazis begin rounding up and deporting the Jews, he has nowhere to go. Originally supposed to stay only for a few days, Mr. Dussel remains in the attic until the Gestapo take everyone away.
In his fifties and set in his ways, Mr. Dussel is difficult to get along with. He refuses to adjust to the reality of so little space shared by so many people. He also stirs up worry, for example, by making everyone fearful that the thief will report them. He also makes his dislike of Anne clear. For instance, when Mr. Van Daan says in reaction to Anne’s nightmare screams, ‘‘I thought someone was murdering her,’’ Mr. Dussel answers, ‘‘Unfortunately, no.’’
Anne is thirteen years old when her family goes into hiding. She is a rambunctious, precocious, friendly, talkative girl. In the Franks’ life in Amsterdam, Anne had many friends at school, and now, lonely in the attic, she turns to her diary as the confidante with whom she can share her thoughts. She tells her diary about her family, her past, her feelings, and her hopes for the future.
Anne’s boisterousness and her determination to act as she feels and not as others believe she should pose a challenge; Mrs. Frank and the Van Daans think she should act more like a young lady, but Anne refuses to change her personality to their wishes. She rebels against societal restrictions and the values of an older generation. However, while Anne’s imagination, enthusiasm, and will cannot be subdued, at times, as when Anne makes Hanukkah presents for everyone, this quality is greatly appreciated.
Although carefree on the exterior, Anne has many serious concerns that she keeps hidden. She worries about her relationship with her mother and her inability to control herself, particularly with regard to acting hurtful toward others. Another major concern is her writing; she has decided that her goal in life is to become a famous writer, but she does not know if she will be able to write well enough to ‘‘go on living even after my death.’’ Anne also spends her time thinking about the events that have shaken the world. She knows about the concentration camps, but she still insists on believing that the world will be a better place someday. Her last words in the play are hopeful ones: ‘‘I think the world may be going through a phase, the way I was with Mother. It’ll pass, maybe not for hundreds of years, but some day…. I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are really good at heart.’’ Anne dies in the concentration camp when she is fifteen years old.
Mrs. Frank is a reserved woman, and she believes that her daughters should be the same way. Her lack of understanding regarding Anne’s personality makes it impossible for the two to share a sustained emotional connection; nevertheless, she is hurt by Anne’s continual rejection of her ideals and her affection. Mrs. Frank takes on the role of conciliator, trying to keep things calm in the attic; for example, she is willing that Anne should give up her one friend—Peter—to appease Mrs. Van Daan. Though she rarely argues—as Margot points out to Anne, ‘‘She can’t talk back.… It’s just not in her nature to fight back’’—the night she catches Mr. Van Daan stealing food is the last straw. She adamantly demands that Mr. Van Daan leave the attic. Only Miep’s arrival with good news deters her from making him leave. Mrs. Frank dies in the concentration camps.
Margot, Anne’s older sister, is eighteen years old when they first go into hiding. She is a reserved young woman. Margot is in every way a wellb-rought-up young lady. She is obedient and respectful. She does her studies with her father and helps her mother with the chores of the house. She loans her high heels to her younger sister. She rarely disagrees, but one notable exception, which shocks her mother, occurs when Margot declares, ‘‘Sometimes I wish the end would come … whatever it is.’’ Margot dies in the concentration camps.
Mr. Frank and his family immigrated to Holland in the 1930s, when Adolf Hitler came into power in Germany. Mr. Frank started an import business, but the business was taken from him when the Germans conquered Holland in 1940. The family lived under increasingly repressive circumstances for a few years, but afraid of what would happen to the Jews, Mr. Frank arranged for his family to go into hiding in the attic above his former business. He invited the Van Daans as well, out of gratitude for Mr. Van Daan’s help when he first arrived in Holland.
Mr. Frank is the head of the ‘‘attic’’ family, but he willingly shares any information regarding their safety with everyone else. His calmness and patience lead him to try to work out the difficulties that arise between members of the household. Mr. Frank is also a loving, helpful father. He teaches the girls so they do not fall behind in their studies, and he invites Peter to take part in these lessons as well. He and Anne share a special bond; Anne turns to him with her fears and nightmares, not to her mother.
Of the eight occupants in the attic, only Mr. Frank survives the concentration camps. He returns to Amsterdam in November 1945, but the memories are too painful for him, and he decides he must leave, though he doesn’t yet know where he will go.
Miep Gies, a Christian, is about twenty years old when the Franks go into hiding. She was a secretary in Mr. Frank’s business, and now, along with Mr. Kraler, she becomes the lifeline to the attic occupants, bringing them food, other necessities, and luxuries such as books. Miep is also the person who finds and saves Anne’s diary, which she gives to Mr. Frank when he returns to Amsterdam.
Mr. Kraler, a Dutchman, worked for Mr. Frank before the Nazis took away his business. Now, Mr. Kraler runs the business. He willingly risks his life to help his friend and former employer. Either he or Miep visit the attic every day to bring food for the families. Mr. Kraler’s health suffers as a result of this strain; at one point, he is hospitalized for ulcers and eventually undergoes an operation.
Peter Van Daan
Peter Van Daan is about sixteen when the families go into hiding. He is a shy, socially awkward boy with an inferiority complex. His closest friend has been his cat, whom he brings to the attic with him. As he tells Anne, he is a ‘‘lone wolf.’’ At first hostile toward Anne, eventually he realizes that she is a ‘‘fine person,’’ and the two become close friends. With Anne, Peter is able to share his private thoughts. Peter dies in the concentration camps.
Petronella Van Daan
Mrs. Van Daan is vain, flirtatious, and difficult to get along with. She has a high regard for material objects. According to her husband, it was her refusal to give up her possessions that prevented them from leaving Holland earlier and resettling in Switzerland and America. In the attic, she can be found constantly caressing the fur coat that her father once gave her. She places this coat above all else; she gets upset when her husband insists on selling it so that they can buy food and other necessities, and she doesn’t spare Anne’s feelings when the girl spills milk on the coat by accident. Mrs. Van Daan and her husband continually argue, but she still looks out for him, for example, by giving him the largest servings of food. Mrs. Van Daan dies in the concentration camps.
Putti Van Daan
Mr. Van Daan helped Mr. Frank when the German man first moved to Holland, which is why Mr. Frank invited the Van Daans to share their hiding place. However, Mr. Van Daan is a selfish man, and this quality introduces problems into the attic. He protests allowing Mr. Dussel to move in with them because it will mean less food for everyone else. It turns out, Mr. Van Daan has been stealing the household’s food. Mr. Van Daan is also openly critical of Anne, for example, saying to her, ‘‘Why aren’t you nice and quiet like your sister Margot? Why do you have to show off all the time?’’ Mr. Van Daan dies in the concentration camps.