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The Diary of a Young Girl | Discussion Questions 31 - 40

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What does Anne Frank's dream on January 6, 1944, about Peter Schiff mean in The Diary of a Young Girl?

When Anne Frank dreams of her old beau, Peter Schiff, on January 6, 1944, she already yearns for a friend and is beginning to feel the need for a romantic partner, too. Because Anne disclosed that she was secretly in love with Peter Schiff (July 1, 1942), it comes as no surprise that he shows up in her dream. In Peter Schiff, Anne finds an outlet that combines her desire for companionship and for romantic love. It is also possible that Anne's dreaming of Peter Schiff is actually a representation of her desire for Peter van Daan; Anne herself suggests as much when she writes on February 28, 1944, that "Peter Schiff and Peter van Daan have melted into one Peter, who's good and kind and whom I long for desperately." Anne's dreaming of Peter Schiff conveys her desire for a new level of intimacy with Peter van Daan. Anne's dream foreshadows a problem, however. Peter van Daan will have a hard time competing with Anne's idealized version of Peter Schiff. Unlike Peter van Daan, who she does not consider to be marriage material, Peter Schiff is someone she would definitely consider marrying.

In The Diary of a Young Girl, why does Anne Frank decide to revise her diary, and what is the significance of this revision?

On March 29, 1944, Anne Frank decides to revise her diary in the hopes of turning it into a book after hearing a speech on the radio by the Dutch Cabinet Minister, who wants to collect "diaries and letters dealing with the war." Her decision is significant for two reasons. First, Anne's decision to revise her diary shows how serious she is about becoming a professional writer. She is only 14 years old, but she jumps into the revision process without hesitation in order to achieve her goal of publication, an astonishing decision for a girl her age. Second, her decision to revise the diary shows Anne's growing attention to the horrors of war and her conviction of how important it is to convey them to others. She feels other people should learn the concrete details of what it is really like for Anne and the other residents to actually live "as Jews in hiding." In addition, she wants to communicate the effects of the terrifying bombings, epidemics, and food shortages on others in Amsterdam during the war. As she begins to revise her diary, Anne seems more willing to consider the lives of other people than she has previously in the diary.

What ideas about contemporary feminism does Anne Frank relate to in The Diary of a Young Girl?

Throughout her diary, Anne Frank repeatedly asserts herself as an independent, intelligent young woman who engages with big ideas in earnest, including those tenets of feminism. Through her conflicted relationship with her mother, Anne begins to sort out what it means to be a woman, and what kind of woman she would like to be. Through her budding relationship with Peter van Daan, she begins to think about what it means to be the female in a romantic partnership, and even explores the concept of marriage, specifically in the short story she writes called "Cady's Life" (May 11, 1944). As Anne begins to envision herself in the roles of wife and mother, she also starts to question traditional gender roles. She wonders "why women have been, and still are, thought to be so inferior to men" (June 13, 1944). Of course, the reader knows at this point that Anne is, by all available accounts, far more complex than Peter, a reality not lost on Anne. Though Anne is dismayed by the injustices women face, she is hopeful about the recent progress made on the feminist front. She, like other women, "realize[s] how wrong it was to tolerate this state of affairs." In this diary entry, written the day after her 15th birthday, Anne asserts herself as an independent thinker who plans to challenge the status quo in society just as she challenges the status quo in the Secret Annex.

In The Diary of a Young Girl, what does Anne Frank mean when she writes on January 30, 1943, that she wants to "choose the golden mean"?

In her entry for January 30, 1943, Anne Frank writes about Mrs. Frank's apparently contradictory treatment of her. According to Anne, first her mother delivers "a series of absurd reproaches," only to later treat her just the same as everyone else as if there were no problems between them. Anne is perplexed by what she perceives to be her mother's wild extremes, and claims "it's impossible for me to be all smiles one day and venomous the next." Anne insists that instead of swinging between extremes as her mother does, she'd "rather choose the golden mean," or a more balanced approach. The golden mean is an Aristotelian concept of the ideal middle ground between two extremes. Anne states that she is committed to this virtuous middle way; however, her diary entries show that she is, in fact, just as moody and changeable as Mrs. Frank, often claiming to love her mother one moment, then insisting that she hates her the next.

What qualities and experiences described in The Diary of a Young Girl might help contemporary readers relate to Anne Frank?

Although Anne Frank lived through extraordinary experiences, the contents of her diary make her a person readers in other times can relate to. She experiences conflicts like those all adolescents deal with: a struggle to assert independence, and her bitter, but also affectionate, feelings toward family members. Anne also has a heightened sense of injustice and keen awareness of the hypocrisy of adults, common among adolescents. Like many teenagers going through puberty, she experiences feelings of discomfort and awkwardness about her emerging sexuality. Readers may also relate to her her willingness to acknowledge and work on her own shortcomings; and perhaps above all, her compassion for others. Though Anne's story is unique to the unfortunate time she lived in, her experiences with the struggles of growing up still resonate.

What is the significance of the cats who appear in The Diary of a Young Girl?

Cats in the diary play multiple roles, often as reflections of the residents' situations. Anne Frank has to leave her beloved cat, Moortje, behind when she and her family move to the Secret Annex, and she is heartbroken. Mr. van Daan passes Moortje off to the Franks' tenant, Mr. Goldschmidt, who doesn't know that the Franks have gone into hiding, or why. Mr. van Daan uses the delivery of the cat as a convenient pretext for starting a false rumor that the family have fled Amsterdam. Mouschi, a cat who lives in the Annex, slinks in and out of many scenes in the diary, after the residents come to live there. She acts as a comforting companion for them and also provides some much needed comic relief: Mouschi gets rid of rats in the attic, for example, but she is also responsible for an infestation of fleas that proceed to bite the residents mercilessly. The cat also has a more serious function. When Anne sees Peter van Daan hugging Mouschi to him, she realizes how much Peter needs affection, which helps trigger her attraction to him. Anne also writes about Boche, the warehouse cat. Anne thinks the cat is female at first, but Peter points out Boche's genitals to her to prove otherwise, foreshadowing their own eventual exploration of sexuality. Boche also acts as metaphor for the war. In her March 12, 1943, entry, Anne explains that Boche is nicknamed "the German" because he is an "aggressor," initiating fights with a cat who lives in the attic, just as the Germans acted as aggressors against other countries in the war. The attic cat, named "Tommy," is a stand-in for the English. "Just as in politics," Anne claims, Tommy defeats Boche as she hopes the English will defeat the Germans. Later in the diary, Boche disappears and is never seen again.

In The Diary of a Young Girl, how is Anne Frank's immaturity an important factor in her diary?

Anne Frank shows plenty of the classic signs of adolescent immaturity in her diary. She complains about the other residents, sometimes cruelly. She expresses frustration with her parents and their inability to take her seriously, while refusing to recognize their point of view. She obsesses over boys, sometimes melodramatically. At times, Anne can be irritatingly self-involved, even with a war raging outside. But Anne's immaturity reflects one of the diary's most important functions: it allows Anne to have a safe, private space in which to express her thoughts freely and thoroughly and to avoid others' snap judgments about her. This is a crucial step in her ability to become ultimately a more mature, independent, young woman. She can assess her own thoughts and actions by recording them and revisiting them to gain a fuller understanding of all aspects of herself. This, in turn, allows her to develop her judgment, and therefore develop toward adulthood. Her immaturity also communicates her authenticity to readers: she is a teenage girl, warts and all. This gives the diary greater credibility.

Why is Anne Frank so distressed over her outgrown clothes in The Diary of a Young Girl?

In The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank quickly outgrows the layers of clothing she piled on the day the Frank family went into hiding in the Secret Annex. On October 14, 1942, Anne discloses that she has gained 19 pounds since moving into the Secret Annex. It then comes as no surprise when she later writes on May 2, 1943 (first entry), that her clothes "are so small they don't even cover my stomach." Outgrowing her clothes is also a sign that she is a rapidly growing adolescent. Not only must Anne be embarrassed by how she looks, she also laments how these outgrown clothes show the conditions under which the residents are forced to live. On February 20, 1944, Anne imagines how other people who live in the world "put on their best clothes and go strolling in the sun," while "we scrub, sweep and do the laundry." The image of the Frank and van Daan families wearing worn out clothes too small for them while doing chores in the Secret Annex conveys how far removed they are from the comfortable life they once had. Things have changed so much that Anne wonders if things will ever be normal, even after they can leave their hiding place.

In The Diary of a Young Girl, who is to blame for war, according to Anne Frank, "other than politicians and capitalists"?

Anne Frank writes on May 3, 1944, that "I don't believe the war is simply the work of politicians and capitalists. Oh no, the common man is every bit as guilty; otherwise, people and nations would have rebelled long ago!" This understanding of the forces at play during wartime demonstrates Anne's deep insight into the troubles of her time and of humanity at large. Her claim is a profound bit of wisdom that is echoed by many other philosophers and historians, specifically with regard to genocidal wars. Essentially, Anne understands that dictators such as Hitler and Mussolini cannot carry out their wars without willing citizens to do the fighting and passive citizens to allow the fighting to happen. The responsibility for the atrocities of World War II lies not only with the people who committed these inhuman acts, but also with those who stood by and did nothing to stop them.

What social and personal realities are revealed through the sale of Mrs. van Daan's fur coat in the October 17, 1943, entry in The Diary of a Young Girl?

Anne Frank writes on October 17, 1943, that the van Daan family has run out of money, in part because 100 guilders belonging to Mr. van Daan have gone missing from the warehouse. In order to continue to procure supplies, Mr. van Daan convinces Mrs. van Daan to sell her fur coat. Mrs. van Daan resists the idea of using the proceeds from the sale to buy provisions for the Secret Annex because she wants to "keep the money herself to buy new clothes after the war." This scenario reveals some important things. First, there is a larger money crisis going on in Holland, which is reflected in the van Daan's financial situation. Second, Mrs. van Daan is holding on to the belief that she will return to a normal life after the war, although her future is uncertain at best. She may need to convince herself that she can do so in order to cope with the stress of living in the Secret Annex.

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