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The Diary of a Young Girl | Discussion Questions 41 - 50

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How do the restrictions Anne Frank faces in the Secret Annex help form her character in The Diary of a Young Girl?

Living in secret in the Secret Annex during wartime comes with a vast number of restrictions, including having to remain silent for long periods of time, and not being able to go, or even look, outside. There is virtually no privacy, either. To make matters worse, Anne Frank must also contend with the many restrictions placed on her behavior and activities by her parents and interference from the other adult residents. She feels crowded and criticized at every turn. Anne also complains of being forbidden to read certain books, a frustrating situation for such an avid reader. And when Anne's parents feel uncomfortable with the growing closeness between her and Peter van Daan, the young couple must struggle to meet privately. What emerges from these many restrictions is Anne's increased need to believe herself to be mentally and, perhaps, emotionally independent. The isolation of living in the Secret Annex forces Anne to rely on her own mental resources. She reads an enormous amount and creates new goals for herself that she might not have established had she been living in the outside world. By pushing back against the parental restrictions she experiences in the Secret Annex, Anne is also able to define herself against her parents' expectations and develop a stronger sense of individuality. The very restrictions meant to hold her in place enable her to begin to establish her own freedom.

What are Anne Frank's experiences with and beliefs about trust in The Diary of a Young Girl, based on her entries for January 6–March 2, 1944?

In The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank struggles with the concept of trust. In her entry for January 22, 1944, she asks, "Why do people have so little trust in one another?" She realizes that this applies to her, too: "Why [do] I always behave differently when I'm in the company of others?" This observation is also a reflection of Anne's own condition. She finds that she can trust no one but Kitty—an invented friend—with her dreams, her private thoughts, and her feelings about the people in her life. This feeling of being unable to trust others encourages Anne to become independent, but it also leaves her feeling isolated. On January 30 she writes, "I knew I was on my own, that I couldn't count on others for support." By February 18, however, Anne does reach out. She comes to trust Peter van Daan, if even hesitantly. She writes, "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 Dairy of a Young Girl, how do Anne Frank's thoughts on March 7, 1944, about beauty, courage, and faith apply to her own behavior throughout the war?

Anne Frank writes on March 7, 1944, that "beauty remains, even in misfortune ... A person who's happy will make others happy; a person who has courage and faith will never die in misery!" Anne's strategy is to seek out happiness through the world's beauty and to rise above misery through courage and faith. This is not always easy to put into practice in the stress-filled atmosphere of the Secret Annex. Anne is not a model of moral perfection. Anne does not always aim to be happy and therefore make others happy. She can be harshly critical, particularly toward her mother, and as a teenager, can be petty and self-absorbed at times. However, despite the extreme circumstances in which she and the residents live, Anne seeks out beauty around her, particularly through her appreciation of nature (February 23, 1944). Like the other residents, she must call upon herself to be courageous as bombs explode nearby and the residents face the daily threat of being discovered by the police. Most touching is her ability to continue to have faith in the goodness of others, even when she must acknowledge the inhumane treatment of the Jews and others at the hands of the Nazis.

What does the chestnut tree relate to Anne Frank and Peter van Daan's relationship in The Diary of a Young Girl?

On February 23, 1944, Anne Frank visits the attic with Peter van Daan. They look out the window at a "bare chestnut tree glistening with dew." In time, Anne comes to refer to the tree as "our chestnut tree." That same year, on April 18, she writes, "Our chestnut tree is in leaf, and here and there you can already see a few small blossoms." On May 13, 1944, she writes that "our chestnut tree is in full bloom." This progression from a tree glistening with dew to one in full blossom may represent the evolution of her relationship with Peter. For Anne, the tree is something that belongs to her and Peter because they share the experience of admiring it when they are alone together in the attic. Anne also considers nature in general as evidence of beauty in the world, and therefore a way to avoid being swallowed up by suffering and sadness. The chestnut tree provides a lovely glimpse of the natural world just beyond the Annex. In this way, it also represents a chance to escape the challenges of life Anne faces, if only for a few moments. Anne cannot actually go outside, but she can still gaze upon the chestnut tree through the attic window with Peter, which brings them both comfort.

How does Anne Frank's depression affect her from late 1943 to the end of The Diary of a Young Girl?

A very clear picture of Anne Frank's struggle with depression emerges by late 1943, when she discloses that she has "gone completely around the bend" (October 17) despite "taking valerian every day to fight the anxiety and depression" (September 16). She continues by admitting that even with the help of this sedative, she still feels "even more miserable the next day." There seems to be no relief from her struggle with depression. Anne speculates that "a good hearty laugh would help ... but we've almost forgotten how to laugh." This last admission suggests that it is not only Anne who struggles with depression. With the increasing tensions of the war and their extended time in hiding with no end in sight, everyone in the Secret Annex seems to have lost the ability to laugh and enjoy life. Though more moments of humor and joy do emerge before the ominous end of Anne's diary, the final entries reveal the extent of her suffering: "It's twice as hard for us young people ... at a time when ideals are being shattered and destroyed." Most upsetting is Anne's admission in the very last entry of the diary that "a voice within me is sobbing." This shows how the young diarist struggled with depression to the very end of her testimony.

Why is Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl such an important historical document?

The Diary of a Young Girl is of critical importance for a few reasons. Reading a diary allows people to experience historical events vicariously through the accounts of people who actually lived through them. Anne Frank also comes across on the page as three dimensional. She is a teenager with vitality and charm, but can be self-involved and moody. She struggles to grow and know herself. In this way, she is undeniably human, and therefore compelling. So is her description of life in hiding, which includes concrete, day-to-day details of the residents' survival. This allows readers to gain an in-depth understanding of the experience of Jewish refugees from the perspective of a participant in those events. As a result, her diary has the potential to combat prejudices against Jews, who were seen by many during the war as less than human. Anne's undeniable humanity, and her candid description of the terrors of life in hiding, puts a human face on the Jewish experience during World War II. On the one hand, the diary, along with other primary sources from World War II and the Holocaust, is a reminder of the evil of which human beings are capable. On the other hand, the Frank and van Daan families and their helpers offer a shining example of the human capacity for hope and perseverance. When readers realize that Anne, who was so full of life, died at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, it does not lessen the power of her humanity, but only enhances it.

What does religious faith come to mean to Anne Frank over the course of The Diary of a Young Girl?

In the early sections of Anne Frank's diary, she does not often mention her faith or her Jewish identity, unless it is to discuss restrictions she and other Jews are suffering in Amsterdam under the German occupation. She barely discusses God at all, unless it is to express her desire for "God to give me a new personality" or her belief that He is testing her in some way. The dream that Anne has about Hanneli seems to be a turning point for Anne's relationship with her faith. After this dream, she begins to pray sincerely to God for the safety of her friend (November 27, 1943). Nevertheless, a month later (December 29, 1943), Anne admits that she still does "not have enough faith in God." Nevertheless, her faith continues to deepen. This may be due to her growing thoughtfulness about war, the suffering it brings, and the many ways people cope, or cannot cope, with its realities. Anne looks for confirmation of God's good will and finds it first in the beauty of nature (February 23, 1944). By April 11, Anne has found total faith and trust in God and His plan for her and the Jewish people. She now uses the first-person plural pronoun we to show her identification as a Jew with all Jews. She writes that God will "lift us up again" out of suffering, and offers the belief that their suffering "will teach the world and all the people in it about goodness." She stands strong in her conviction that despite all her troubles and those troubles far greater than hers, "God has never deserted our people." Her deepened faith in God helps her make sense of the terrible atrocities of World War II.

In The Diary of a Young Girl, what conclusions about humanity does Anne Frank reach on July 15, 1944?

Through her practice of reflective writing, deep thinking, reading, and faith, Anne Frank arrives at a startling, beautiful view of humankind in one of her final diary entries. On July 15, 1944, the third-to-last entry she would ever write, Anne concludes that "in spite of everything ... people are truly good at heart." Anne reaches this conclusion despite the crushing and "grim reality" that she has so painstakingly recorded. She confronts the dire situation in which the Jews found themselves during World War II. She understands that "it's utterly impossible ... to build my life on a foundation of chaos, suffering, and death," and yet she feels hopeful, filled with the dream that in the future she will make something great of her life. Anne's own will and spirit demonstrate her conviction in the goodness and resilience of humankind.

In The Diary of a Young Girl, what journalistic qualities does Anne Frank develop during her time in the Secret Annex?

Anne Frank developed as a writer during the time she spent in hiding in the Secret Annex due, in part, to her studies and, in part, to writing so frequently. Living in close quarters with other people also improved the talent she had already shown in her diary's earliest entries for keen observation. She shows a real flair for choosing concrete details that convey the essence of a person or situation quickly and accurately, as in her descriptions of the dynamics among the residents or the unpleasant facts of living in hiding. As her diary goes on, Anne weighs and measures her observations more and more carefully to find the truth behind them. She becomes less focused on herself, and more focused on making connections in order to see the big picture. She recognizes, for example, how the situation in the Annex is a reflection of the larger circumstance of the war. These qualities would have served Anne well had she lived to become the journalist she hoped to be.

Why was the radio such a coveted item for the people living in the Secret Annex in The Diary of a Young Girl?

The radio is established as an important tool for the Frank and van Daan families in The Diary of a Young Girl. Soon after the families go into hiding, the Frank family sneaks into the private office to listen "to England on the radio" (July 11, 1942). Given the fear of being discovered that Anne Frank describes surrounding this trip to listen to the radio, readers can conclude that getting news from the outside is an important thing to the residents and worth taking risks for. Oftentimes, the news from outside the Annex, specifically broadcasts from England, is upsetting. For example, the residents of the Secret Annex learn on October 9, 1942, that the Germans have made progress in Holland, and they are sending the Jews away to be murdered, most likely gassed. However, at other times, such as on March 18, 1943, when they receive news that Turkey has entered the war, the radio is a source of hopeful information. It is for this reason that Anne expresses distress on June 15, 1943, when she learns that the Dutch authorities are gathering up all the radios. She knows that it is the radio that "helps us not to lose heart." Luckily, Mr. Kleiman had a smaller radio that he gave to those in the Secret Annex when they had to give theirs up.

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