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The Diary of a Young Girl | Discussion Questions 1 - 10

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What is the significance of the title of The Diary of a Young Girl?

Although the diary is sometimes referred to as The Diary of Anne Frank, the work is officially known as The Diary of a Young Girl. This title is an accurate description of the manuscript: Anne Frank was indeed a young girl when she wrote the entries that spanned 1942–44. However, the title also serves as an ever-present reminder that this young girl lived through the unimaginable during these short years. She was only 13 years old when she and her family went into hiding from the Nazis. Her diary, unlike those of many other young girls who had the good fortune to live life without persecution during World War II, is a space in which she had to sort through extremely tragic and complex experiences while still an adolescent. The use of the words young girl in the title ensures that the reader will never forget just how young Anne was when she wrote her diary under these terrible circumstances.

What do readers of The Diary of a Young Girl learn about Anne Frank from the list of gifts she is given for her birthday on June 12, 1942?

On June 14, 1942, Anne Frank lists the many gifts she received for her birthday two days prior, the best among them the diary in which she records the list. Other gifts include flowers, a plant, a game, a puzzle, grape juice, cold cream, money, and a book, as well as a gift certificate for more books, and some sweets. Readers can learn a lot about this young woman from the kinds of gifts her family selected for her at this moment in her life. The diary seems a natural fit for a girl who has shown great ingenuity with language and is just entering adolescence. The gift of books signals that Anne is an avid reader. The game and puzzle suggest that she likes to keep her mind engaged, and the cold cream signals that she is no longer a child, but rather a young lady beginning to take up the beauty routines of a woman.

How does Anne Frank characterize her mother in the journal entries dated June 12–July 5, 1942, in The Diary of a Young Girl?

In the entries for June 12–July 5, 1942, Anne Frank gives a bit of background about her mother, including that she was 25 when she married Otto Frank, who is 11 years older. The first characteristic Anne offers about her mother is one they both share: "I would never be able to break myself of the habit, since my mother talked as much as I did." Here, Anne says there is nothing she can do about being chatty, one of her most marked characteristics, because she has inherited the trait from her mother. In her July 1 entry, Anne says, "Mother is always asking me who I'm going to marry when I grow up." Despite Anne's clear precociousness, her mother doesn't ask what she wants to do professionally when she grows up, but rather who she will marry. This detail shows the reader that Mrs. Frank is very much a woman of her times, a fact that will contrast with Anne's emerging interest in feminism in later sections.

What does the reader learn about Anne Frank from her description of her friends in the entries for June 12–July 5, 1942, in The Diary of a Young Girl?

In her June 12–July 5, 1942, entries, Anne Frank describes various friends who attended her birthday party. Some of her characterizations of them include: one girl who "looks kind of poor"; another "who's always forgetting things ... [and is] very kind"; one who "talks so much it isn't funny ... [and is] always touching your hair or fiddling with your buttons"; one who has "a cheerful disposition, but [is] extremely finicky and can spend hours moaning and groaning about something." These are just a few of the colorful descriptions Anne offers of the friends she has from school. These descriptions reveal a few things, not only about her friends, but also about the diarist. She has a keen attention to detail, revealing her intelligence and talent with words. She is candid, with a good sense of humor. She is quick to judge, but also frequently offers a balanced representation of her friends by noting both negative and positive characteristics.

How does Anne Frank's birthday function as a time-marking device throughout The Diary of a Young Girl?

Anne Frank's diary chronicles three of her birthdays: 1942, 1943, and 1944. Although she did not intend it as such, the three birthdays serve as a device to mark the passing of time and to offer a means for the reader to measure the changes in the lives of Anne and the other residents in the Annex. The first birthday (June 12, 1942), which takes place before her family goes into hiding, is described as joyful. Anne receives many gifts that suit her personality and interests well. She shares cookies with her classmates at school, and has a birthday party with friends on the weekend. But when June of 1943 comes around, there is no similar celebration; of course, she is in hiding, so there are no friends with whom to celebrate. Instead, in addition to modest gifts of books and candy, Anne copies in its entirety a birthday poem composed by her father in German and translated into Dutch by Margot Frank. The poem discusses Anne's struggles living in close quarters with the adults in the Secret Annex. It also talks about how she is growing, indeed outgrowing, her clothes. This poem and the realities of Anne's life that it captures stand in stark contrast to the carefree life she had just a year before. On her third and final birthday in the Annex, Anne once again mentions the many gifts she received, many of them of an educational nature, some sweets, and some necessities like underwear, among other things. This discussion occupies a single paragraph, which is then followed by several paragraphs describing the state of the invasion, military and diplomatic action by Churchill, Smuts, Eisenhower, and Arnold, and the general mood and condition of the Dutch and of Europe at large. On this birthday, Anne delights in gifts, as any young girl might, but she is also forced to contemplate extraordinarily complex conditions brought on by the war.

In the June 12–July 5, 1942, entries of The Diary of a Young Girl, what effect does repeating the word Jews have in Anne's description of the restrictions against them?

In the first of two entries for June 20, 1942, Anne Frank writes of the many ways the daily lives of the Jews in Amsterdam were limited under Hitler and the tide of antisemitism that spread across Europe during World War II. She writes that "Jews were forbidden to use swimming pools, tennis courts, hockey fields," and so on. She notes that "Jews were forbidden to sit in their gardens or those of their friends after 8 p.m." Additionally, "Jews were forbidden to visit Christians in their homes" and "Jews were required to attend Jewish schools, etc." Anne's stylistic repetition of the word Jews and the phrase, "Jews were forbidden," has some specific effects. First, it emphasizes how the list of restrictions against the Jews feels endless. Second, it underscores the fact that this sect of people were persecuted simply because they were Jewish; when reading these words of Anne's, one cannot forget that the people affected are specifically Jews. Third, the repetition of the plural Jews creates the impression that there are many people who are affected by the antisemitic policies of the time. Finally, the repetition underscores that these people form a community of folks suffering from the same moral atrocities—in their suffering, the Franks, along with other Jews, are not alone.

What compels Anne Frank to write the diary that would later be published as The Diary of a Young Girl?

In 1942, Anne Frank begins writing in the diary she is given for her birthday because she feels she needs a confidant. She personifies the diary by naming it "Kitty." She addresses her diary by this name when she writes each entry, as though she were writing letters to an actual person. Despite the evidence Anne offers that she has a vibrant social life filled with many friends, she confides in Kitty a sense of alienation from her peers. She begins writing to Kitty as a way to reveal her true self because she feels she has no other outlet to do so. As the years of hiding in the Secret Annex progress, Anne still does a fair amount of confiding in Kitty, but her diary takes on another purpose. Even before Anne writes on May 11, 1944, that she has decided she will publish her diary as a book called The Secret Annex, she begins recording some of the serious events related to the war and the persecution of Jews, just as a true journalist would. Nonetheless, her entries around this time still reflect the struggles of an adolescent in search of her identity and independence. This helps put a "human face" on the historical events of the Holocaust and World War II.

What do the items Anne Frank selects to bring to the Secret Annex reveal about her in The Diary of a Young Girl?

On July 8, 1942, Anne Frank puts the following items into a bag: "this diary, and then curlers, handkerchiefs, schoolbooks, a comb and some old letters." These selections reveal a few things about Anne. First, the reader understands from her inclusion of curlers and a comb that Anne is concerned with her physical appearance, as are most young women. At the same time, she also chooses to pack the diary and old letters rather than more clothing, stating that "Memories mean more to me than dresses." Finally, her selection of school books shows that despite her relatively poor performance in school, she values learning. Secondly, the selections she makes demonstrate her inability to predict the duration and severity of her family's time in hiding. Her choices reflect the thinking of a young girl going away for a brief stay outside the home, not the thoughtful planning of her parents, who had registered the severity of the situation long ago. Perhaps she brings her school books because she believes she will be returning to school soon, a hope she reiterates several times during the diary.

How does Anne Frank act like a typical adolescent in the June 12–September 21, 1942, entries from The Diary of a Young Girl?

In her early diary entries for June 12–September 21, 1942, Anne Frank chronicles the daily happenings in the life of an adolescent girl who cares about conventional teenage concerns, such as the social doings of her friends, her interactions with teachers in school, and her youthful romances. Even when the Frank family is forced into hiding, most of Anne's writings demonstrate how she is a typically egocentric adolescent. For example, she writes, "I was suffocating even before we left the house, but no one bothered to ask me how I felt." Although Anne understands why her family is wearing such thick layers of clothing, she is more concerned with the fact that she hasn't been consulted about these plans—something she perceives as an intentional slight from her family—than with the fact that they are being pushed into hiding by political forces. Here, Anne demonstrates her preoccupation with herself and her resentment of her parents, a condition entirely typical of an adolescent.

How does Anne Frank's perception of herself begin to change as she moves through puberty in The Diary of a Young Girl?

In the entry for November 2, 1942, Anne Frank writes about how eager she is to get her period so that she will become a woman. Over a year later, on January 22, 1944, she returns to this entry and those that came before and adds a note about how surprised she is "at [her] childish innocence" from that earlier time. By 1944, Anne is embarrassed by certain things that she had written about freely before she got her period. In her entry for January 6, 1944, she identifies with what she reads in Sis Heyster's article about blushing. The article discusses the way adolescent girls "withdraw into themselves" in response to "the wondrous changes taking place in their bodies." Anne's involvement with Peter van Daan, an important part of her experience of puberty as she explores her sexuality, has also made her realize even more forcefully what she does or does not want. These entries show how Anne's perception of herself is changing as she moves through puberty.

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