Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1157
Coming-of-Age Frank was in hiding with her family from age thirteen to age fifteen. Readers find many of her feelings and experiences familiar, indicating that the process of growing up, with all of its pain, joy, and uncertainty, is generally the same regardless of time, place, or situation. Even in...
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Frank was in hiding with her family from age thirteen to age fifteen. Readers find many of her feelings and experiences familiar, indicating that the process of growing up, with all of its pain, joy, and uncertainty, is generally the same regardless of time, place, or situation. Even in normal circumstances, adolescence is an awkward and introspective time, but Frank's extraordinary circumstances add intensity to her maturation. Frank is like most teens in that she struggles with her family, especially her parents. She is at odds with her mother, which is common in adolescence, as girls begin to assert their independence from their mothers. Unlike most teens, however, Frank has no way to distance herself physically from her mother, so the emotional distance widens. Further, Frank's preference for her father is made more obvious by the close quarters, although Frank's need for independence eventually leads her to distance herself from him, too. Frank's relationship with Margot is typical, too; Frank feels that she is unfairly compared to Margot, who is held up as an ideal teenager by Mr. and Mrs. Frank. She writes on July 12, 1942, ‘‘[E]very day I feel myself drifting further away from Mother and Margot. I worked hard today and they praised me, only to start picking on me again five minutes later. You can easily see the difference between the way they deal with Margot and the way they deal with me.’’ Despite the sibling rivalry, the sisters grow closer during the years in hiding as Frank matures and the sisters realize they have more in common than they once had.
Frank's teenage years are unique in that Mr. and Mrs. Frank are fairly progressive in their parenting style, allowing their daughters to express their individuality. The common attitudes of the time are expressed by the other characters (particularly Mrs. Van Daan) who are sometimes horrified by Frank's seemingly undisciplined ways.
At the beginning of the diary, Frank is rambunctious, playful, and intensely curious. Her descriptions of people are typical of adolescents' perceptions. On June 15, 1942, for example, she writes that one of her classmates is ''a detestable, sneaky, stuck-up, two-faced gossip who thinks she's so grown-up.’’ Frank's self-confidence leads her to believe that many of the boys in her class were enamored of her. On June 20, 1942, she writes, ‘‘I have a throng of admirers who can't keep their adoring eyes off me and who sometimes have to resort to using a broken pocket mirror to try and catch a glimpse of me in the classroom.’’ Her interest in the opposite sex, and in appearing attractive to the opposite sex, is completely normal for a girl Frank's age. Faced with the prospect of not meeting any new boys for a long time, her impulse to recall previous admirers is not surprising.
As the diary progresses, Frank gains an increased sense of her own identity apart from her parents. On April 11, 1944, she writes, ‘‘I'm becoming more and more independent of my parents. ... If only I can be myself, I'll be satisfied. I know that I'm a woman, a woman with inner strength and a great deal of courage!’’ By her last entry, she has arrived at a deeper degree of self-knowledge, and she understands that she still has much to learn about herself and the world. Frank begins to understand herself and her conflicted identity better and to recognize her strengths and weakness, while at the same time she begins to develop a sense of what kind of woman she wants to become.
To many readers, Frank's romance with Peter is predictable. After all, they are both at the age when young people become more aware of their sexuality, and Peter and Frank have only each other with whom to explore those feelings. Although Frank delights in Peter's company and excitedly anticipates seeing him, she knows that they are not really in love. On February 18, 1944, as she and Peter are just beginning their relationship, she writes, ‘‘Don't think I'm in love, because I'm not, but I do have the feeling that something beautiful is going to develop between Peter and me, a kind of friendship and a feeling of trust.’’ In the midst of the budding romance, Frank is filled with typical teenaged melodrama; she confides on February 28, 1944, ‘‘I see him nearly every hour of the day and yet I can't be with him, I can't let the others notice, and I have to pretend to be cheerful, though my heart is aching.'' The more she gets to know Peter, however, the more she sees that she is further along in her self-analysis than he is and that she is quickly outgrowing him.
Innocence and Optimism
Throughout her stay in the Secret Annex, Frank retains her unyielding optimism. After being cooped up for nine months, she writes on February 23, 1944, that she looks out her window, surveying Amsterdam with its rooftops and horizon, and she notices a strip of blue sky. She writes, '''As long as this exists,' I thought, 'this sunshine and this cloudless sky, and as long as I can enjoy it, how can I be sad?'’’
Through radio broadcasts and reports from Miep and Bep, Frank knows what is happening to Jews, yet she maintains that people are still basically good. On March 25, 1944, Frank reveals, ‘‘I was born happy, I love people, I have a trusting nature, and I'd like everyone else to be happy too.’’ In the most famous passage of Frank's diary, on July 15, 1944, she writes, ‘‘It's a wonder I haven't abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart.’’ This statement is compelling when the reader realizes that this entry was one of the last made by Frank, after having lived in the Secret Annex for two years and hearing news of the horrors taking place in the outside world. At times Anne's optimism stems from her religious beliefs. On March 31, 1944, for example, she writes, ''My life here has gotten better, much better. God has not forsaken me, and He never will.’’ Her positive outlook applies not only to the outside world, but to herself as well. On January 30, 1943, she writes, ‘‘All day long I hear nothing but what an exasperating child I am, and although I laugh it off and pretend not to mind, I do mind. . . .I'm stuck with the character I was born with, and yet I'm sure I'm not a bad person.’’
Frank's optimism is so deeply embedded in her identity that it sustains her through every hardship. This is evident not only in the diary passages, but also in accounts of Frank's behavior and attitude at Bergen-Belsen. She remained as cheerful as possible, and she was described as kind and selfless. In a situation where most people chose to shut down their emotions, Frank stayed in touch with her feelings.