Themes

Our detailed Themes section focuses on the important issues of Anne Frank's narrative. We first examine several aspects of the daily life of the eight people in hiding in the secret annex in Amsterdam. For example, we look at the well-organized life of the people in hiding, the spatial confinement and the frequent conflicts, the food supply and rationing, and the constant fear of the people in hiding and their longing for the outside world.

The next section deals with the coexistence of the teenagers and the adults in the hideout and the generational conflict this brings about, as the three teenagers have to grow up in a confined space with their parents for two years. We first define the terms adolescence and puberty, since there are very clear behavioral differences between the pubescent Anne and the adolescents Margot and Peter, who are three years older. We describe Anne's relationships with the other two teenagers and with her parents in more detail.

The last three sections deal with the main character and cover the following themes: friendship, love, and growing up. In this context, we look at Anne's road to maturity, how she develops over the course of two years from a rather carefree schoolgirl to a reflective adolescent. In this period, her falling in love with Peter and his conquest allow her to experience her first kiss. Here we also discuss Anne as a person who likes disputes, her loneliness, her acquired self-confidence and her reflections. 

Our in-depth interpretation of Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl (1947) follows the text closely, therefore all statements are backed up by the relevant passages or quotations.

Living in hiding

The organized coexistence

The annex at 263 Prinsengracht in Amsterdam is a narrow, tall building of barely 60 square meters, not visible from the street and connected to the front of the house only by a single door, which will later be covered with a revolving bookcase. It has three small rooms, a toilet with sink, a kitchen, and an uninsulated attic.

Because the eight people in hiding have to live locked up together in a very small area, privacy is significantly compromised for each of them. There are hardly any moments of solitude. Furthermore, the poor hygienic conditions, the scarce food rationing, the constant fear of being discovered and of the bombings of the war raging outside make everyday life in the secret annex a real challenge for everyone involved.

In Anne's view, the confined coexistence and the numerous security precautions ensure that everyday life in the secret annex is completely different from “ordinary times and ordinary people” (35%). The inhabitants of the secret annex have to follow a precisely coordinated daily routine, which Anne records in her diary. 

For example, they all make up their beds at the same time in the evening so that they can cover the windows at exactly ten o'clock, and they schedule their lunch break to coincide exactly with the time when the warehouse workers have left the office: “To ensure the safety of all, rest hours must be strictly observed!!!” (20%)

When the dentist Albert Dussel settles into the secret annex, he is impressed by how practically everything is set up and organized. He is particularly impressed by the ironically written secret annex rules imposed by the van Daans.

The secret life

All residents of the secret annex must always be careful not to be discovered by the outside world. To keep their existence secret, they must never open any windows  and must keep the curtains drawn day and night.

 None of them is allowed to look out of the window. The confinement and the cramped conditions in the secret annex depress Anne after only a few weeks: “Not being able to go outside upsets me more than I can say (…)” (8%).

The people in hiding have to spend a large part of the day in absolute silence. Since the secret annex borders directly on the warehouses of the Opekta company and the warehouse workers are not aware of the existence of the people in hiding, all the residents of the secret annex must be very quiet during office hours. 

As soon as a workman is in the house, they have to be completely quiet for days and are not allowed to move at all: “On ordinary days we have to speak in a whisper; not being able to talk or move at all is ten times worse. After three days of constant sitting, my backside was stiff and sore.” (15%).

The life filled with conflict

Almost all of the residents in the secret annex have to share a room with someone else. The van Daan couple sleeps in the shared kitchen, Margot sleeps in the same room as her parents, and Anne has to share a small room with the dentist Albert Dussel. Only Peter has a small connecting room to himself.

The cramped quarters lead to many disputes and conflicts. Anne is particularly affected by the arrangement of her room. From the beginning, she is not enthusiastic about having to share her things with a stranger, and soon realizes that Albert Dussel is anything but a pleasant roommate. Neither of them has enough space, and each of them can see exactly what the other one is doing. 

Under these circumstances, privacy is almost unthinkable: “[Albert Dussel] gets more exasperating and egotistical as the days go by. He’s particularly infuriating on Sundays, when he switches on the light at the crack of dawn to exercise for ten minutes.” (23%). The disagreement regarding the use of the room escalates when Anne argues for longer working hours at the shared desk.

Quarrels and conflicts break out every day, not only between Anne and Albert Dussel, but also between all the residents of the secret annex. According to Anne, after a few weeks an atmosphere develops in which everyone is “mad” (28%) at everyone else. And the longer the families share their daily lives in close quarters, the more tense the atmosphere becomes: “Relationships here in the Annex are getting worse all the time.” (39%). The triggers of the conflicts are often minor happenings, such as the sharing of household goods or the distribution of food.

Everybody wants to have more time for themselves, and the constant company of the others is a burden to everyone. Peter, for example, wishes he didn't have to see his parents “for a year or two” 60%), Anne would also like to get rid of her parents for a while. Also, Anne's mother expresses the wish “not to have to see Mr. van Daan’s face for two whole weeks.” (50%)

Moreover, being forced to carry out their romantic relationship in plain sight of all the other adults, is very difficult for Anne and Peter. Anne's mother, for example, does not approve of her going to Peter's room alone so often, and Anne's father reminds her of the problems of a close relationship in a confined space

 ‘Outside, where you’re free, things are quite different. You see other boys and girls, you can go outdoors, take part in sports and all kinds of activities. But here, if you’re together too much and want to get away, you can’t. You see each other every hour of the day-all—the time, in fact.’ (82%). 

However, in the unoccupied attic, the young people can meet mostly undisturbed, and here they also kiss for the first time.

Shortages and rationing

The lack of hygiene products, new clothes, and good food the inhabitants of the secret annex experience, is caused not only by the fact that they are in hiding, but also by the shortages during wartime. However, the deficiencies in the outside world often hit the secret annex even harder, as the people in hiding have to buy all their products on the black market.

The people hiding in the secret annex are completely dependent on their four helpers, who go shopping for them with ration coupons bought on the black market. The secret annex dwellers have built up a supply of “a hundred cans of food” (18%) for hard times. At the end of 1942, Anne describes the food as “enough” (18%).

After just a few months, Anne realizes that her standard of living has deteriorated drastically since moving into the secret annex: “All the same, later on, when everything has returned to normal, I’ll probably wonder how we, who always lived in such comfortable circumstances, could have “sunk” so low. With respect to manners, I mean.” (29%).

Several clothes cannot be washed because “detergent is rationed and in short supply. Besides, it’s of such poor quality that it’s practically useless.” (29%).  All secret annex dwellers have to make do with worn-out clothes and, in Anne and Margot's case, clothes that are clearly too small. And if someone gets sick in the hideout, they must recover on their own; a doctor cannot be called under any circumstance.

The longer the war goes on, the more problematic the food supply becomes. Most of the time, the food is not varied either, but consists of different meal periods in which there is “only one particular dish or type of vegetable to eat.” (73%).

The people in hiding are dependent not only on their four helpers from the office, but also on the company's trademark suppliers and subcontractors. When the company`s greengrocer is arrested, the residents in hiding can no longer easily be supplied with basic food, such as potatoes.

Reading and boredom

Each of the residents of the secret annex pursues their own hobbies and interests as a means of passing the time. All of them are very busy reading, and the three teenagers Peter, Margot, and Anne also continue their schooling as best they can. In fact, there are times when Anne is “terribly busy” (16%) because she is devoted to studying many subjects. In addition, they all regularly assist the helpers from the office with work for the company.

Although each of the residents tries to keep busy to the best of their ability, there are always periods when boredom threatens to overshadow everything. After electricity is rationed, all those in hiding are forced to live without light for fourteen days. Since it is already too dark to read in the afternoon, Anne is so bored that she starts watching her neighbors through binoculars.

Longing for the world outside

Considering all the daily sacrifices they have to make, it's no wonder that the residents in the secret annex constantly long for things they took for granted before the war:

Margot and Mr. van Daan wish, above all else, to have a hot bath, filled to the brim, which they can lie in for more than half an hour. Mrs. van Daan would like a cake, Dussel can think of nothing but seeing his Charlotte, and Mother is dying for a cup of real coffee. Father would like to visit Mr. Voskuijl, Peter would go downtown, and as for me, I’d be so overjoyed I wouldn’t know where to begin. (33%).

Anne experiences a deep longing for the outside world, for nature and fresh air. She goes up to the attic almost every morning to “get the stale air out of [her] lungs” (58%). Her desire for freedom and movement is so great that she sometimes runs restlessly through the cramped annex.

Constant fear of discovery and bombing

In addition to the daily limitations in the secret annex, all those in hiding also have to deal with constant fear: fear for acquaintances and relatives still living in the outside world, fear of discovery, and fear of the night bombings and shooting. 

The people in hiding are relatively well informed about events in the outside world thanks to their helpers and an English radio station. They find out when their Jewish acquaintances are arrested and also know about the cruel conditions in the camps to which they are deported. Anne feels truly guilty at the thought of being safe, while many of her friends and acquaintances are exposed to unimaginable suffering: 

We wouldn’t have to give a moment’s thought to all this suffering if it weren’t for the fact that we’re so worried about those we hold dear, whom we can no longer help. I feel wicked sleeping in a warm bed, while somewhere out there my dearest friends are dropping from exhaustion or being knocked to the ground. (20-21%).

However, the people hiding in the secret annex are by no means lulled into a sense of security. The fear of possible discovery is constantly present, and the safety rules, such as speaking and walking quietly, are consistently observed. Various thieves, who gain access to the front of the building on several occasions, pose the greatest risk of discovery. After a burglary, police search the office building, rattling the revolving cabinet that covers the entrance to the secret annex, but fortunately do not discover it.

In addition to the fear of discovery and the fear for acquaintances and friends, the secret annex residents are confronted almost every night with the bombings and shootings of the war raging outside. Anne is terrified every time she hears the noise: “I still haven’t gotten over my fear of planes and shooting, and I crawl into Father’s bed nearly every night for comfort.” (25%).

During the shootings, Anne almost always packs an escape bag, even though she knows that even in an emergency, none of them can leave the secret annex.

Conflict between generations

Puberty and adolescence 

The term puberty describes a period of about four years (10-14) during which physical changes transform a child's body into an adult's body enabling them to reproduce. Anne is a pubescent girl who admits in her diary to longing for her first period. She reflects on what happened on January 6, 1944: 

Yesterday I read an article on blushing by Sis Heyster. (…) What she basically says is that during puberty girls withdraw into themselves and begin thinking about the wondrous changes taking place in their bodies. (…) Whenever I get my period (and that’s only been three times), I have the feeling that in spite of all the pain, discomfort and mess, I’m carrying around a sweet secret. (39%).

The term adolescence refers to the lo...

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