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 taken to a concentration camp, and for herself and her companions as the sounds of air raids and gunfire penetrate their shelter. In an effort to overcome her fears, Anne confides in her diary, which she names "Kitty" and treats as a personal friend.
Anne shows strength and courage in her writing, retaining her faith in human beings: "In spite of everything, I still believe in the goodness of man." Anne's optimism contrasts Peter Van Daan's initial pessimism. Rather quiet and bewildered by the sudden turn in his life, he spends much time locked in his own room. Anne gradually develops a romantic interest in Peter and convinces him not to succumb to pessimism but to hope for a better future. On dates limited to going from room to room, they talk, share ideas, and support each other.
Mrs. Van Daan seems to be an ordinary, doting mother at the book's beginning, but as the tension builds, she becomes panicky and neurotic. Moody and constantly complaining, she also boasts about her youth, her numerous boyfriends, and her active social life, much to the embarrassment of her son Peter. As the story develops, she begins to nag her husband and disturb the other people in hiding, fighting with Mrs. Frank over trivial matters such as whose dishes to use. Mr. Van Daan, on the other hand, remains reticent and tries to cover for his wife's shortcomings. But after desperation drives him to steal potatoes from the others, the roles are reversed, and Mrs. Van Daan tries to protect her husband.
Anne portrays her own family in more sympathetic terms. She depicts her mother as a quiet woman who attempts unsuccessfully to communicate with her. Mrs. Frank is puzzled because Anne...
(The entire section is 789 words.)