Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl

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

The List…

I have posted a list of 45 selections to begin my challenge. As the challenge moves along, I may elect to lengthen the list…perhaps to 100. A few books that I would have included are not listed because I have already read them (in the last couple years) for college courses I was taking: Robinson Crusoe…Daniel Defoe, The Scarlett Letter…Nathaniel Hawthorne, Emma…Jane Austen, The Red Badge of Courage…Stephen Crane, Uncle Tom’s Cabin…Harriet Beecher Stowe, The Awakening…Kate Chopin, East of Eden…John Steinbeck, and
A Prayer for Owen Meany…John Irving.

And yes, I love vintage and otherwise interesting book covers! Who doesn’t, right…right?
Anyway, I think I am going to make Little Women and The Diary of Anne Frank my first two selections from the list. I have had a strange affair with books relating to Louisa May Alcott this year; starting with Harriet Reisen’s biography: Louisa May Alcott: The Woman Behind Little Women. I have also read March by Geraldine Brooks and The Lost Summer Of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O’Connor McNees. I remember that in fourth grade our teacher purchased books from the Scholastic Book Order and then allowed us to each pick one from a table for our Christmas present. I was an avid reader as a child and so I, of course, picked the thickest book on the table: Little Women. I haven’t read this book since I was a child and am wondering if I will enjoy it as an adult as much as I did back then. As for The Diary of Anne Frank, I must confess that I have NEVER read it, although I have seen the movie.