Literature / The Diary of a Young Girl

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One of the most famous and memorable accounts of World War II and The Holocaust, The Diary of a Young Girlnote  was the title given to the edited version of the diaries of Anne Frank (19291945), a Jewish German school girl living in Amsterdam. In 1942, Anne was given a diary notebook for her 13th birthday. By that point, Germany had already invaded and occupied the Netherlands for two years. At first, the Franks tried to live out the occupation, but as the genocidal intent of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis became clear, Anne's father Otto built a secret shelter in the building where he worked. (By that point, the country's borders were closed and travel for Jews was tightly regulated; leaving Amsterdam would have been impossible.) On the 6th of July 1942, Anne's sister Margot received relocation orders to enter a "work" camp. The Franks, along with the Van Pels family and another Jewish friend, immediately moved into what would become known as the Secret Annex.

The rest of Anne's diary chronicles the next two years of her life in the cramped Annex along with her fellow fugitives. The daily routine consisted of absolute silence during the day, since the business was still running below them, blissfully unaware of the Annex or its occupants. There was relatively more freedom during the night, though they could not leave the building at all. Their only contact with the outside was a contraband radio and a few co-conspirators who brought them weekly supplies.

As human nature would dictate, locking eight people in half of a townhouse under such stressful situations meant that each of the occupants proceeded to get on everyone else's nerves. The diary abounds with morbidly funny tales of the occupants arguing over rations, radio channels, and people's cooking. They even argued over bathroom privileges, since any small mistake—such as a toilet flushing at the wrong time—could get everyone killed.

On top of the domestic melodrama, Anne also wrote about the teenage rebellion she could never act on, her confusion over puberty and budding sexuality, her deepest thoughts and philosophy, and her romance with the handsome Peter van Pels. The diary can sometimes sound like the writing of any teenage girl, albeit an insightful and interesting girl with excellent diction and writing skills, if you forget the whole hiding-from-the-Nazis situation.

The last entry in the diary was written on the 1st of August 1944. Three days later, the Grüne Polizei stormed the Annex. Everyone inside was sent to a concentration camp; Anne herself was sent to Auschwitz, then Bergen-Belsen, where she died of typhus in February or March 1945—about a month before that camp was liberated.

Of those who lived in the Annex, only Otto Frank survived Auschwitz and returned to Amsterdam. Miep Gies managed to save all of Anne's papers from the ransacked house. The book was first published in Dutch in 1947, then translated to English in 1952, and it has never left the public consciousness since. If you pull someone out of a crowd and ask them to name a Holocaust victim, they will probably name Anne Frank.

The best known adaptation of the book is the play (1955) and movie (1959) The Diary of Anne Frank. There is also the 2001 miniseries Anne Frank: The Whole Story.


The Diary of a Young Girl includes the following tropes:

  • All There Is to Know About "The Crying Game": Anyone with a passing knowledge of World War II knows exactly what is going to happen to everyone in the Secret Annex before reading the diary.
  • Alone in a Crowd: Even though Anne has a loving family, plus lots of girlfriends and boy admirers, she still wishes for one true friend in whom she can confide her thoughts. Her diary becomes a Replacement Goldfish in this regard; she calls it Kitty as if it is a friend or pet cat (which she also misses once she is in the Annex).
  • Anyone Can Die: As this is non-fiction, it holds true that anyone can die. Sure enough, most of them do.
  • Awkwardly Placed Bathtub: The Secret Annex did not come with a bath, though it did have running water, so the occupants had to bathe in a tin tub. Since everyone has different ideas of acceptable privacy, they all used different rooms in the house.
  • Bi the Way: There are passages in the unabridged edition where Anne admits to being excited by the female body and asks to feel a friend's breasts. As mentioned below, these were cut from the original publication, though at the time, it was likely done more because of the Squick factor of Anne being in her early teens rather than any squeamishness about bisexuality.
    • To be fair, her father was also one of the original editors, and it seems unlikely that he would want so many private thoughts from his daughter to be out in the open like that.
  • Bookcase Passage: To hide the entrance to the Secret Annex, a bookcase was constructed across the doorway.
  • Bowdlerise: Otto Frank's publication of the diary removed many of the passages about Anne's sexuality and arguments with others in the Annex. The cut passages were later published a in an unabridged edition, which was (perhaps unsurprisingly) subject to controversy and even banning.
  • Bulk Buy Only: One entry had them getting several buckets of strawberries.
  • Daddy's Girl: Anne adored her father, but griped constantly about how her mother didn't understand her.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Anne got a good share in.
  • Downer Ending: Of those who hid in the Annex, only Otto Frank survived the Holocaust.
  • Genre Shift: The diary does not begin with her family hiding in the attic. It begins with a girl receiving a blank diary for her thirteenth birthday, having a party, attending school, describing her friends...
  • Home by Christmas: Anne hopes they won't still be in hiding by the end of 1943. When Italy surrenders, hopes are raised once more that the war will be over by the end of 1944.
  • Master of the Mixed Message: Anne writes how she is not in love with Peter; she's just wants to spend more time with him for companionship. Then a few paragraphs later she'll be gushing over how much she's in love with him.
  • No Ending: Anne's diary ends abruptly, since she obviously couldn't continue it in the camps.
  • No Periods, Period: Anne eagerly anticipates the onset of her periods. A year later, having experienced them for real, she goes back through her diary and is embarrassed over how candid she was about the subject.
  • Parents as People: Anne wrote about her difficult relationship with her mother—compounded by the fact that they were all cooped up together and, well, Anne was 13 or 14—but also regretted it: "I said to myself, 'Anne, is that really you talking about hate? Oh, Anne, how could you?'" Ultimately it came down to a simple personality clash, and later the two grew closer.
  • The Pollyanna: Towards the end of her diary, where she has already been stuck in the Annex for years and experienced much of the horrors of WWII, Anne writes:
    It's really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.
  • The Stateless: All of the refugees are stateless, since the Nazis stripped them from their German citizenships.
  • Who Would Want to Watch Us?: In an early entry (the 20th of June 1942), Anne writes: "it seems to me that neither I—nor for that matter anyone else—will be interested in the unbosomings of a 13-year-old schoolgirl".
  • You Talk Too Much: Anne has to write an essay titled "The Chatterbox" because she keeps talking in class (quickly followed by "An Incorrigible Chatterbox" and "Quack, Quack, Quack, said Mistress Chatterback"). This becomes Serious Business when she has to remain quiet for long periods of time in the Secret Annex.


Alternative Title(s): Anne Frank The Diary Of A Young Girl

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