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The Diary of Anne Frank: A Character Analysis
Transformation in an Historical Context
“When I think back to my life in 1942, it all seems so unreal. The Anne Frank who enjoyed that heavenly existence was completely different from the one who has grown wise within these walls. Yes, it was heavenly…[w]hat more could anyone ask for?” (p.258)
The Diary of a Young Girl is the journal and tragic first-person narrative of said girl, a Jewish teenager, during World War II. In her diary, Anne changes as she goes into hiding, transforming from a happy-go-lucky schoolgirl into a sad and reflective young adult. In The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne changes as the setting changes.
Setting is the time and place, including historical period and geographic location. The setting at the beginning of Anne’s diary is suburban Amsterdam, 1942. Anne’s primary focus is on schoolmates, what she remembers from when she was little, and her annoying schoolteachers. She revels in placing bets with her friends on whether a classmate might pass a test and in her excitement with her new diary. She writes to “Dear Kitty” (Anne’s name for her diary) about her report card, extra homework assignments from an “old fogey”, and her smart sister. Anne is simply a young girl enjoying a child’s life, complete with innocent, childish musings and youthful dislikes.
The lighthearted tone with which Anne’s diary begins does not stay for long. As history darkens with World War II, so do Anne’s thoughts. No longer do her friends take precedent in her diary and thoughts; instead she talks ominously of concentration camps and lonely cells. When her father comes home one day announcing his decision to take the entire family into hiding, Anne is frightened and worried, yet aware of what’s happening. As the time in which Anne lives undergoes a major change, so too does she.
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Abruptly, Anne is shut off from the outside world in the Secret Annex. Her thoughts are now wholly concentrated on survival rather than school. The stark contrast from her comfortable home in Amsterdam to a crowded attic in an office building does as much to darken her musings as constant danger. No longer does Kitty hear of Rin Tin Tin, but of the gunfire outside the annex, so frightening to Anne that she crawls into bed with her parents (p. 119). Anne writes solemnly of friends and acquaintances that have perished (p. 119), taking on a contemplative and depressed quality. How much of this is her adolescence and how much is plain terror? History can never be sure.
"We’ve been strongly reminded of the fact that we’re Jews in chains, chained to one spot, without any rights…Who has inflicted this on us? Who has set us apart from all the rest? Who has put us through such suffering?...[t]hat night I thought I was going to die. I waited for the police and was ready for death…" (pp 322-323)
One thing is abundantly clear, however: In The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank changes as the setting changes. Reflecting the sober history around her, her diary is a stark contrast to the adolescent norms one has come to expect in the modern age.
© 2015 JB