October 27, 2010

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

October 27, 2010

I think that Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl was the perfect choice for me to begin my reading project. I feel sort of the same way about starting my blog as Anne felt about starting her diary: “It’s an odd idea for someone like me to keep a diary; not only because I have never done so before, but because it seems to me that neither I – nor for that matter anyone else - will be interested.”
As I began reading, the first thing that jumped out at me was what I thought to be various inconsistencies in Anne’s writing. I am not sure if this is due to an issue with translation, editing that her father may have done, or even editing that Anne herself may have completed. I have read somewhere that at some point Anne went back and began re-writing portions of her diary when, during her stay in the annex, she had decided that she wanted to become a serious writer and had begun to hope that she could publish the diary after the war.
Although Anne Frank is most notably a young Jewish girl in hiding in Holland during the profoundly horrific times of the Holocaust and WWII, I was struck by how first and foremost Anne is simply a teenage girl. And that, I feel, is the true value of the book, any inconsistencies aside. Since studying to become an English teacher, I have built a sense that literature can be used as an amazing tool in the classroom for teaching the concept of tolerance…more specifically the idea that we must learn to accept our differences, but also find the similarities in those differences. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl suites this purpose well, in my opinion. Specific setting and circumstances aside, Anne could be any adolescent girl…Jewish, Christian, Muslim, white, black, from the 1940s or the new millennium. Anne states the following on November 7, 1942: “It is only that I long for Daddy’s real love: not only as his child, but for me – Anne, myself.” Isn’t this validation, this idea of truly being heard what all teenagers, and for that matter all humans, are searching for?
Throughout the diary, Anne struggles with standard adolescent issues such as body image, raging emotions, finding her own identity as an individual and relationships with the opposite sex. Anne also experiences the typical problems that many teenage girls encounter at some point in their relationship with their mother. Granted, these feelings may be exasperated by living confined to such close quarters with such limited contact with the outside world. On January 30, 1943, Anne writes: “I’m boiling with rage, and yet I mustn’t show it. I’d like to stamp my feet, scream, give Mummy a good shaking, cry, and I don’t know what else, because of the horrible words, mocking looks, and accusations which are leveled at me repeatedly every day, and find their mark.” Then on December 24, 1943: “each day I miss having a … mother who understands me.”

But here I must stop and discuss the following “creep-out” alert as by this point Mr. Dussel has already joined the group in the annex. Anne and her sister, sixteen year old Margot, were initially sharing sleeping quarters, but upon his arrival it is Anne and Mr. Dussel who are arranged to bunk together while Margot is moved to a cot. I found this arrangement of a thirteen year old girl sharing a room with a fifty four year old man very strange and almost appalling actually. Why wouldn’t Anne and Margot continue to share the same room while Mr. Dussel took the cot??
It seems that by the end of 1943, seclusion has taken its toll on Anne. She appears to be having bouts of anxiety and depression (which good god who wouldn’t be?) and she writes about being given Valerian pills. I was unsure what these were, but internet research revealed that Valerian is an herbal remedy often used for anxiety, depression and as a sleep aid. She just seems to be on a natural roller coaster ride of emotions and to top it all off, she has quite suddenly become infatuated with Peter, the young son of the Van Daans who also share the annex with the Franks. I think Anne best sums up this point in time in her entry from March 12, 1944: “When shall I finally untangle my thoughts, when shall I find peace and rest within myself again?”
During the spring of 1944, the diary reveals the blossoming relationship between Anne and Peter. I enjoyed this period in Anne’s life, perhaps because I already know how her story ends and it made me glad to think that, even at fourteen, she was at least able to experience this sort of relationship with a young man once before her life was to end so abruptly. Her connection with Peter certainly seemed to slow her bouts with anxiety and depression. I think I also enjoyed her writing during this time because she seems to be growing into such an amazing young woman despite her circumstances. She is more confident, independent, and yet more thoughtful and introspective. She knows that she wants to be something in this world, to make a contribution through her writing, and to be more than a housewife.
In her April 4, 1944 entry, Anne says: “I want to go on living even after my death! And therefore I am grateful to God for giving me this gift, this possibility of developing myself and of writing.” Little could have Anne imagined how prolifically she would indeed continue to live on after her death in a German concentration camp in the spring of 1945.

Favorite Quote: “You only really get to know people when you’ve had a jolly good row with them." Anne Frank


Allie said...

I have always meant to read this, I just never have. Surprising, isn't it? My school didn't teach this, and when I was student teaching, I taught the play instead of the whole diary. This is definitely something I need to read in the future. Thank you for the great review!

Anji said...

Wow! I LOVED your review! I also LOVE this book with all my heart.
I also agree about Mr. Dussel.. when I read that part, I thought that it was very peculiar for them to share a room. The thought quickly vanished though. It IS very strange. I know that the diary was edited though to remove some more inappropriate things. She wrote everything in her diary. I would be surprised to hear that she didn't write more about that.

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