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Literature / The Diary of a Young Girl

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One of the most famous and memorable accounts of the German occupation during World War II, The Diary of a Young Girlnote , also known as The Diary of Anne Frank, was the title given to the edited version of the diaries of Annelies Marie "Anne" Frank (12 June 1929 – February or March 1945), a Jewish German schoolgirl who ended up one of the most well-known and emblematic victims of The Holocaust.

Anne's family, the Franks, fled the increasing persecutions of Jewish people in Nazi Germany after Adolf Hitler seized power and settled in the capital city of The Netherlands, Amsterdam, in 1934, when Anne was 4 and a half. Unfortunately, war broke out in 1939 and the Franks could not get visas to emigrate, and German forces invaded and ended up occupying the Netherlands (and most of Western Europe) in 1940.

At first, the Franks tried to live out the occupation, but as the genocidal intents of 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). In 1942, Anne was given a diary notebook for her 13th birthday.

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 burgeoning 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 — barely a month before that camp was liberated.

Of those who lived in the Annex, only Otto Frank survived the Holocaust and returned to Amsterdam. Family friend and co-conspirator Miep Gies managed to save all of Anne's papers from the ransacked house, then convinced Otto that the world needed to know about what had happened. 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.

1.5 million young children were murdered (shot, starved, gassed, etc.) in the Holocaust, but that is too big for the "average person" to mentally process, so Anne is used as a figure in popular culture to represent all of them. The official Auschwitz Museum is working hard to remember the individual children through its social media accounts. See an example here with French Jewish child Gina Goldstein, who was gassed upon her arrival at Auschwitz not long after her sixth birthday.

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 and the 2021 Magical Realism animated movie Where Is Anne Frank. The 2023 miniseries A Small Light features the residents of the Annex, but focuses on the people who helped them hide.


The Diary of a Young Girl includes the following tropes:

  • Apocalyptic Log: One of the most famous real-life examples. The diary was written during World War II in Amsterdam, Netherlands while it was occupied by Nazi Germany, where many Jews were persecuted. Because Anne's family were Jewish, they were forced into hiding into a small room in a house to avoid the Nazis. In order to pass the time living in a small room everyday, Anne was given a diary which she used to document her everyday life in hiding.
  • 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.
  • Berserk Button: Mrs. Van Daan and Mr. Dussel tell Anne that she has been exposed to too much mature information at a young age, and so will be jaded as an adult, and that she had better hurry if she wants to catch a husband, since everything later on in life will be a disappointment to her. Anne is so enraged by these remarks that she writes a diary entry about Mrs. Van Daan so abusive that she later feels compelled to write an apologetic addendum - even though she has no expectation that anyone will ever read her calumny.
  • Big Sister Worship: At times, Anne feels incapable of measuring up to Margot's smarts & resents the adults treating her with more respect while criticising Anne's faults.
  • Black Speech: Downplayed. The rules of the Annex state that only civilized languages are allowed, which means no German. But the native German adults still sometimes drop into it, and even Anne occasionally drops into in the diary, usually to indicate frustration. They still read German classics.
  • Bowdlerise: Otto Frank's publication of the diary removed many of its passages. While some were innocuous abridgments demanded by the publisher, many of them were edits to remove mentions of Anne's sexuality (she at one point frankly describes examining her vulva to satisfy both her own curiosity and to tell Peter what it was like, along with pressing him for details about his penis and testicles), some proto-feminism, her less-than-kind words for their now deceased roommates, etc. The cut passages were later published in an unabridged edition, which was (perhaps unsurprisingly) subject to controversy and even banning.
  • Classified Information: Miep Gies admitted that, had she read the diary when she retrieved it, she would have to have destroyed it, as this contained the names of all five of the helpers as well as of their black-market suppliers.
  • Companion Cube: Anne addresses the diary as 'Kitty', talking to it like it is capable of listening to her.
  • Downer Ending: Of those who hid in the Annex, only Otto Frank survived the war.
  • 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…
  • Gratuitous French:
  • Have a Gay Old Time: The older translation is rife with this.
    • Anne once gives Mrs. Van Daan a toilet water based shampoo. At first it seems the gift is pay back against her, but toilet water was meant to refer to perfume (as in "eau d'toilette").
    • The classic one. The translator uses "gay" to mean "joyous" and "queer" to mean "strange".
    • This is the only example that's shared with the '50s translation and '90s translation: Anne calls her platonic friends "girlfriends", but given that Anne wrote about wanting to touch one of her friend's breasts, this might be accidentally fitting.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • The entire diary is an exercise in this. Anne feels isolated and unable to express herself, so she writes her hidden thoughts in there.
    • Anne also writes more about the other residents' personalities later in the diary. For example, in 1944, she regrets her previous characterizations of her mother and sister as unnecessarily mean.
  • Hide Your Lesbians: Anne mentioned in her journal how she was attracted to a (female) friend, and even was aroused by the female form, "that it was so beautiful" it made her cry. This part was edited out, for her privacy or the anti-LGBT stigma of the time. Later unedited versions have often been banned in schools.
  • Lonely Among People: 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 substitute 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).
  • Master of the Mixed Message: Anne writes how she is not in love with Peter; she 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 labor camps both she and her family were sent to.
  • No Periods, Period: As expected, Anne writes about getting hers, though not very often, since she's only been menstruating for a short time and her cycle hasn't stabilized yet (to say nothing of poor nutrition or the constant stress of hiding possibly contributing to amenorrhea.)
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted at the start. Twice in the same entry, in fact. First, there's a boy mentioned named Herman Koopman, who shares his first name with Mr. Van Pels/Van Daan. After that, she mentions having a crush on a boy named Peter, months before she fell in love with the Peter in the Annex. Anne lampshades their shared names, and commented that it’s like the two Peters combined into one in her mind.
  • 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. Mrs. Frank ultimately gave her life for Anne.
  • 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.
  • Sacred First Kiss: Anne regards the date of her first kiss with Peter as a very important day in her life (even though it was a kiss on the cheek, not on the mouth).
  • A Simple Plan: Otto devises a technique of letting his friend know what's happened to him by sending an apparently-innocuous business letter to a supplier in the province of South Zeeland, written in such a way as to have the reply letter sent back in a return-addressed envelope that accompanied it. When it gets back to the office, Otto will replace the letter with his own & deliver it to his friend. The thinking is that the friend will suppose they have fled the country, or at the very least they will be hard to find as the province is closed-off.
  • Think of the Children!: In an entry dated 21st September 1942, Anne writes about a novel circulating amongst the adults (including then 17-year old Margot) that has been forbidden to her, apparently because of its smutty nature.
  • 13th Birthday Milestone: Anne Frank was given her diary on her 13th birthday, where she would begin writing about her life in pre-war Amsterdam, before documenting her time in hiding from the Nazis.
  • 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".
    • In March 1944, she hears on the news that members of the Dutch government are interested in preserving wartime letters and diaries. She writes that her diary won't be much use to them and might as well be titled "the unbosomings of an ugly duckling".
  • 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.

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

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Anne Frank

This video is from the Mentors TV show. A time-displaced Anne Frank experiences freedom in modern-day Canada after months stuck in the Annex, happy to learn that in the future Jews can live their lives like everyone else.

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