The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

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Summary

(Critical Guide to Censorship and Literature)

When Anne Frank was thirteen years old in 1942 she began keeping a diary. Written for herself alone, it described in explicit detail her thoughts and feelings during the two years that she was confined with seven other people in which she called the “Secret Annex.” Eventually, they were all arrested, and Anne, her sister, and her mother perished in German concentration camps. After the war, Anne’s father edited and published an abridged version of her diary which omitted comments about her growing sexual awareness, as well as her critical remarks about her mother and others who shared her hiding place. This version was also adapted to a popular play and a film.

Although Anne’s diary has often been recommended on high school reading lists, parents have complained to school boards in such states as West Virginia in 1982 and in Alabama in 1983, condemning the contents as overly sexually explicit or depressing.

An unabridged, definitive edition, retranslated and published in 1995, has restored all of Anne Frank’s original entries and contains nearly 30 percent more material.

Summary

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

On June 12, 1942, at the height of World War II in Europe, Anne Frank celebrates her thirteenth birthday in hiding from the Nazis. Two days later, she makes her first entry in her new diary. She writes about her birthday celebration and about her gifts, which include the diary. She continues to make regular entries until August 1, 1944, three days before her Jewish family and four other Jews are discovered by German security police in a hiding place—called the Secret Annex—above Anne’s father’s former office at Prinsengracht 263 in Amsterdam. Someone had tipped off the police.

On July 13, 1942, one week after the Franks move into their hiding place, they are joined in the Secret Annex by the van Daans and their son, Peter. On November 16, Albert Dussel, a dentist, joins them in hiding.

Anne writes to an imaginary friend named Kitty about how she is maturing as she adapts to living in tense confinement. The Secret Annex is on the top floor of Otto Frank’s former office with the Travis Company. The still-in-business company rents the office space and is staffed by people who are loyal to Otto and his family and who are committed to helping him and the others who are hiding upstairs. The entrance to the Secret Annex is behind a bookcase that can be pulled out to reveal the staircase it hides.

With a perception that belies her youth, Anne records the dynamics and interrelationships of the people who live in this cramped space. Anne has a close relationship with her father, Otto, an intelligent, practical man, but her relationship with her mother, Edith Frank-Holländer, is strained, mostly by the confinement in which the two, and the others, are forced to exist.

The confinement is intensified because the exiles have to keep utterly silent during office hours, lest a visitor hear them moving about. Even though Anne and the others in hiding can move about more freely at night, they must do so in the dark. Any flicker of light detected by passersby might lead to their discovery.

Anne is beginning to feel the stirrings of adolescent sexuality, but she has no one to help her deal with them, except Peter, two years her senior. Anne, who had initially disliked Peter, gradually grows to love him. Within the confining Secret Annex, the two must act with restraint. Peter’s mother is a controlling woman who is often at odds with Anne, frequently ending her stinging criticisms of her with the words “If Anne were my daughter,” to which Anne responds with “Thank heavens I’m not!”

Although Anne is keenly aware of the hazards under which she and the others live, she retains an optimistic attitude and, above all, still believes in the inherent goodness of people. This remarkable adolescent refuses to be overcome by her hatred for her oppressors, the Nazis and their collaborators. She accepts her life with...

(The entire section is 986 words.)