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The Diary of a Young Girl | Discussion Questions 21 - 30

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In The Diary of a Young Girl, what qualities about Anne Frank are revealed through her criticisms of Mrs. van Daan in the entries for September 27 and 28, 1942?

As a precocious, observant, and critical teenager, Anne Frank has some biting observations about Mrs. van Daan. Anne mocks her for sulking "for the umpteenth time." She also resents Mrs. van Daan's tendency to chime in and scold her behavior, as if she were Anne's mother ("Anne is terribly spoiled"). Despite Anne's dislike for Mrs. van Daan's criticisms of her, she has a few criticisms of her own about Mrs. van Daan. In her entry for September 28, 1942, Anne skewers Mrs. van Daan's hypocrisy when the older woman claims, "I'm very modest and retiring too, much more so than my husband!" Anne thinks Mrs. van Daan is anything but modest, and it is hypocritical for her to claim otherwise. Clearly, Mrs. van Daan is not modest if she feels the need to brag about her supposed positive qualities in this way. While it is typical for teenagers to be critical of their elders, Anne's response to Mrs. van Daan shows Anne to be highly attuned to hypocrisy and a quick judge of character. Anne has a nose for injustice, too, and she is unwilling to put up with what she perceives as unfair treatment.

How might readers view Anne Frank, knowing that earlier editions of The Diary of a Young Girl did not include her discussions of sexuality and female anatomy?

The first edition of Anne Frank's diary was published in 1947. It had been edited by her father, Otto Frank, from the original diary and the revised version she left behind. Otto Frank opted to leave out some of Anne's blunt discussions of human sexuality and bodily functions, such as menstruation, feeling they might be too private for publication. These references would likely have startled readers in the late 1940s, a more conservative time in which open talk of sexuality from an adolescent girl was not considered proper. Years later, new editions of the diary were published that restored the censored passages. Cutting Anne's references to her menstruation, to her description of her genitals, and so on, potentially changes how she appears to readers. For many, Anne Frank stands for the humanity of all the Jews persecuted by the Nazis during World War II. Although her father may not have intended it, removing this material makes it easier to fit Anne into the mold of a saintly martyr. The fact that she happily discusses getting her period, describes female sexual anatomy in detail, and tussles with her sexual feelings for Peter van Daan may make it harder for some readers to see Anne as a flawless, dignified icon of suffering. Instead, she must also be seen as a flawed, three-dimensional adolescent girl. On the other hand, some readers might argue that Anne's sexuality is typical of many adolescent girls, making her seem ordinary. This ordinariness actually humanizes her. As a result, she becomes an even more powerful representative of the many ordinary people killed by the Nazis because of their Jewish faith.

How does Anne Frank's view of the people who help the residents of the Secret Annex change over the course of The Diary of a Young Girl?

Shortly after Anne Frank and her family go into hiding in the Secret Annex, Anne writes to Kitty that she'd "give anything to have one of our helpers sleep here" (July 11, 1942). The helpers, of course, are mostly employees of Mr. Frank, like Bep and Miep Gies, who deliver supplies and information to the Frank and van Daan families. The fact that early on in their stay Anne wants the helpers to sleep in the Secret Annex demonstrates that she views them not as only helpers, but also as friends and sources of comfort. The importance of the helpers increases with time; they continue to take bigger and bigger risks as the situation in Amsterdam becomes more dire. By 1943, Anne cares deeply about the helpers and comes to fear for their safety. A year later, Anne realizes the gravity of the risks these helpers are taking, and expresses gratitude for their tireless help. Ultimately, Anne looks to the helpers and their brave, selfless acts to restore her faith in humanity.

What is the significance of Anne Frank's fantasy about living in Switzerland with her father, Otto, in her entry for October 7, 1942, of The Diary of a Young Girl?

In her entry for October 7, 1942, Anne Frank writes that she imagined she'd "gone to Switzerland" with her father, Otto Frank. The rest of her family is absent from the fantasy, and she and her father share a room together. This detail comes on the heels of a previous entry on October 3 where Anne confesses that she "lay down on the bed next to Mr. van Daan." The other residents of the Annex tease her about it, though Anne insists that she would "never want to sleep with Mr. van Daan the way they mean." This behavior, coupled with her fantasy that she and her father share a room, suggests that Anne is beginning to seek outlets for what is likely still unconscious sexuality. The remainder of the fantasy is a list of how Anne would spend the 150 guilders her father gave her when they arrived in Switzerland. Again, suggesting Anne's growing womanhood, the list is made up entirely of goods to care for her body, including clothing, bath products, and cosmetics. The list also reflects Anne's desire for the material comforts missing in the Secret Annex, and possibly the normalcy and comfort she misses of being with her father at home.

In The Diary of a Young Girl, what is the role of education in the lives of those in the Secret Annex?

The importance of education to the Frank family is abundantly clear throughout Anne Frank's diary. When they prepare to go into hiding, Anne is sure to pack her school books to take with her to the Secret Annex. When they arrive there, they use crates to build book shelves in anticipation of filling those shelves over the time they spend in hiding. Books of all sorts arrive at the Annex, many of whose residents are dedicated readers. Several residents also take correspondence courses in all kinds of subjects during the time they spend there. During the first summer spent in hiding, Anne initially wants to give herself a break from school until September, but Otto Frank insists that he tutor her so she can keep up with her studies. Anne's initial resistance to educating herself disappears quickly. She takes up independent study in mythology, learns French, and studies the Bible and other subjects. She is eager to read all sorts of books, and even asks Dr. Dussel for extended use of the desk in their shared room. The pursuit of education helps Anne and others in the Secret Annex live rich interior lives and engage in lively discussion, all at least in part to forget their circumstances. It is also an expression of their humanity and their willingness to explore the world, continuing to learn and grow, despite the war that surrounds them.

In her entry for March 27, 1943, in The Diary of a Young Girl, what is the effect on Anne Frank of hearing about Rauter's speech?

Anne Frank gives an account on March 27, 1943, of some of the news about the war that she has heard. She recounts the details of a speech given by Rauter, a man she identifies as "some German bigwig." In his speech, he ordered that "all Jews must be out of the German-occupied territories before July 1 [1943]." Rauter explains that certain provinces "will be cleansed of Jews." This phrase, of course, calls to mind the term ethnic cleansing, leading Anne to conclude that the Jews are being killed by the Nazis. She describes them as being treated as subhuman, "as if they were cockroaches," or "being shipped off to filthy slaughterhouses like a herd of sick and neglected cattle." This is so devastating that Anne has to stop writing on the subject. The fact that these details and images are contained in the diary of a young girl maximizes the shock of the information. It also helps readers imagine the individual Jews about whose fates Anne writes. Anne, or any member of the Secret Annex, could be one of them—these thoughtful, kind people the reader has come to know in the course of the diary are the very people who are being dragged off to be killed in the Nazis' insistence on eliminating the Jews.

Why does the threat of burglary increase as time passes in The Diary of a Young Girl?

In The Diary of a Young Girl, there are a few instances of burglary or suspected burglary. The first incident occurs when Mrs. van Daan hears noises and thinks burglars have come to take "sausages and dried beans and ... Peter" (March 10, 1943). Though it turns out that the sounds she heard were likely from a pack of rats, the threat of burglary is real. For the Franks, the van Daans, and Dr. Dussel, there is far more to be lost in a burglary than food, money, and supplies: they could be discovered and turned over to the authorities. A year later, on March 29, Anne Frank writes that break-ins in war-torn Amsterdam happen so often, you have to "ask yourself what's suddenly gotten into the Dutch to make them so light-fingered." Children are "smashing the windows of people's homes and stealing whatever they can lay their hands on." Circumstances outside the Secret Annex grow more dire with each day that passes. Anne notes that "morale among the Dutch can't be good. Everyone's hungry." The effect of the war has been widespread and devastating, making people desperate enough to turn to crime to survive.

What is the purpose of the Prospectus and Guide to the Secret Annex, which Anne Frank creates in The Diary of a Young Girl?

Although Anne Frank can be very serious, and there are times, such as in her September 16 entry in 1943, when Anne feels as though all the residents of the Secret Annex "have almost forgotten how to laugh," there is a great deal of humor in her diary. The reader knows from the outset that Anne is funny, based on the anecdote she relays about her Chatterbox assignments (June 21, 1942) and her wry observations about her friends at school. This humor serves Anne and the other residents well, as a coping mechanism in the often bleak environment of the Secret Annex. Anne records the Prospectus and Guide to the Secret Annex in full in her November 17, 1942, entry. She writes and provides Dr. Dussel with this document when he arrives at the Secret Annex. The prospectus sounds absurdly like a brochure, advertising a lovely retreat with appealing amenities, scarcely an accurate description of the Secret Annex: "Open all year round: Located in a beautiful, quiet, wooded surroundings" and "Movies: Prior arrangements required." However, descriptions such as "Free time activities: None allowed outside the house until further notice" reveal the restrictions the Annex requires. This amusing prospectus clearly demonstrate Anne's ability to frame the residents' situation humorously, a talent that helps them all cope with their situation, while providing some dark humor.

Why do the residents of the Secret Annex celebrate one anothers' birthdays in The Diary of a Young Girl?

Birthdays are rituals, or established customs that people rely on to unfold the same way at the same time each year. In The Diary of a Young Girl, the Frank family, the van Daan family, and Dr. Dussel celebrate birthdays regularly in the Secret Annex, possibly to maintain some sense of normalcy and continuity. Anne Frank makes note of several birthday celebrations. She takes pleasure in listing the gifts the residents give one another, which often include poems written for the occasion—Anne's father writes her a birthday poem, for example, in 1943. These gifts demonstrate the generosity of the residents to each other under difficult circumstances, and when many goods are scarce. Birthdays, celebrations of an individual's ongoing life, may also be particularly significant for the residents because such celebrations would contrast strongly with the death and destruction of World War II. The families probably made every effort as well to maintain the spirit and joy of birthdays to boost their morale and maintain some sense of stability in the face of the instability of wartime.

What does the attic come to mean to Anne Frank in The Diary of a Young Girl?

In The Diary of a Young Girl, the attic of the Secret Annex becomes something of an escape for Anne Frank. She mentions the attic more frequently in her diary as the time spent in hiding drags on. In the first description of the Annex, the attic is mentioned briefly without any elaboration. However, in time, the attic becomes a very important space in which Anne finds some much needed privacy and relief. After a year and a half in hiding, Anne goes "to the attic almost every morning to get the stale air out of [her] lungs" (February 23, 1944). She comes to have a "favorite spot on the floor" where she sits, and where she occasionally has some time alone with Peter van Daan. The window in the attic is the one place Anne feels bold enough to sneak glimpses outside, which helps her feel less confined and imprisoned because she can see some sky, birds flying, and the chestnut tree. In the attic, Anne feels comfortable listening to Mozart's Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, the "beautiful music [that] stirs me to the very depths of my soul" (April 11, 1944, part 1). The attic is the closest thing to an escape young Anne can find in the Secret Annex.

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