Study Guide

The Diary of Anne Frank Themes

  • Isolation

    Anne feels isolated and cut off from her family and the other members of the Secret Annex throughout The Diary of Anne Frank, even while the group is crammed together in shared isolation from the world. The divide between the "inner world" of the Secret Annex and the "outer world" of Holland is mirrored in the divide between Anne’s "inner world" and the "outer world" of the Secret Annex.

    Questions About Isolation

    1. Does isolation ever bring out the best in characters? Why does it so often bring out the worst?
    2. How much does Anne’s isolation contribute to the development of her mind and spirit?
    3. Is it healthy to have such sharp distinctions between one's "inner" and "outer" lives, such as Anne experiences?
    4. Is Anne the only one who becomes self-reflective because of isolation?
    5. Does the isolation of the Secret Annex inmates have any effect on their notion of whether or not they will survive the war?

    Chew on This

    The isolation of the members of the Secret Annex causes them to consider the fact that their lives are in constant danger.

    Anne’s feelings of isolation prevent her from developing emotionally; it is not until she comes to terms with her family’s real love for her that she begins to develop a healthy self-identity.

  • Youth

    Anne records the experiences of her adolescence in her diary: the pages that would later become The Diary of Anne Frank. She goes through all the typical trials and tribulations of teen life, despite the fact that she is not living in a normal context. She fights with her mother and sister, believes that nobody understands her, thinks that she is the one everybody picks on, fantasizes about boys she’s known in the past, and falls in love head over heels with somebody she should probably leave alone.

    She’s just like all of us, even if she is hiding from the Nazis during the years she is growing up.

    Questions About Youth

    1. In what ways are Anne’s experiences typical of teenagers? In what ways are they different?
    2. If Anne had lived through the war, do you think she would have revised her viewpoint of what happened in the Secret Annex from a new, adult perspective? Why or why not?

    Chew on This

    Although Anne’s adolescent experiences seem like every other teen’s, the war made both her angst and her romance more intense—and more critical to the shaping of her character.

    Although the war may have made Anne’s experiences seem more intense and highly influenced by her life circumstances, in fact, her adolescent behaviors and ideas are normal and no different than any other teen’s.

  • Mortality

    The entirety of The Diary of Anne Frank is written during the time when Anne's life was in constant danger. What’s amazing, though, is that she doesn’t dwell on this fact. It comes up, of course, but for the most part all of the members of the Secret Annex live their lives as normally as possible while in hiding.

    However, the fact that her life is in danger makes Anne acutely aware of her mortality. She expresses the desire to do something worthwhile in life and hopes to become immortalized through her writing.

    Questions About Mortality

    1. How do different members of the Secret Annex deal with the knowing that their lives are in danger?
    2. Once in hiding, do the members of the Secret Annex think they will die? If yes, do they have lapses where they forget they are in danger? If no, do they ever start getting scared again?
    3. Does an increased awareness of their mortality lead the members of the Secret Annex to a greater religiousness? Why or why not?
    4. In what ways does Anne wish for immortality?

    Chew on This

    Anne’s increased awareness of her mortality leads her to develop a stronger religious sentiment.

    Anne never believes that she will die during the war; she sees death as something that happens to the Jews who are not lucky enough to be in hiding.

  • Identity

    In The Diary of Anne Frank, Anne describes the complicated movements of her identity during her time in hiding. Trapped in the Secret Annex, Anne explores her identity as daughter, lover, sister, friend, war reporter, philosopher, historian, religious scholar, student, and writer, just to name a few aspects. Anne identifies herself as Jewish, in terms of her cultural heritage, and, to some degree, her religion.

    Like the Roma, Jehovah's Witnesses, gay people, and others considered different, Anne, as a Jew, is considered by the Nazi regime to belong to a “race” that doesn't deserve to exist. The tension between this and the personal identity Anne is trying to develop drives her account.

    Questions About Identity

    1. Anne identifies herself as being “two Annes” several times in her diary. What do you think she means by this? Is her identity only split in two, or are there three Annes, or four Annes?
    2. Anne describes some of the ways Jewish people were required to identify themselves as such, including the wearing of a yellow star. What are some other forms of official identification she describes? How are these similar to and different from the official forms of identification you or people you know are required to use (think school identification, birth certificate, etc.)
    3. How does Anne’s identity as a daughter conflict with and/or complement her identity as a person in a romantic relationship?
    4. Does Anne’s imagination play a role or roles in her identity? If so, in what ways? If not, how is her imagination separate from her identity?
    5. What are some of the ways Anne’s identity has changed from when we first meet her, before she goes into hiding? Are the changes ones that she chose or ones that were forced upon her?

    Chew on This

    “Writer” is the strongest aspect of Anne’s identity.

    As one result of the negative identity imposed on Anne by the Nazis, Anne’s self esteem gets lower and lower throughout her diary.

  • Family

    Anne’s "family" expands the year she turns thirteen to include four other people who are not related to her by blood. Throughout The Diary of Anne Frank, the family is at times healthy and at times dysfunctional. However, Anne herself never seems to recognize anybody outside her own blood relations as family.

    Questions About Family

    1. How does Anne define "family"? How do you define "family"?
    2. Are the van Daans and Mr. Dussel part of Anne’s family? Why or why not?
    3. Are Bep, Miep, Mr. Kleiman, and Mr. Kugler part of Anne’s family?

    Chew on This

    Although the Franks continue to see themselves as a "nuclear family," in fact, their family actually extends to include all of the inhabitants of the Secret Annex and to their protectors as well.

    Under normal circumstances, the Franks might have been a healthy, fully functioning family, but in hiding, all their faults and foibles are exposed and they are a dysfunctional family.

  • Warfare

    This theme probably shouldn’t simply be "warfare," but World War II specifically. The members of the Secret Annex follow the war news religiously via radio broadcasts. There are daily reminders that the country is at war, right down to the food that is available. Everybody’s life throughout the entirety of The Diary of Anne Frank is in constant danger.

    Questions About Warfare

    1. Are Anne’s experiences as a teenager markedly different because of the war? Why or why not?
    2. Is war the major theme or event in Anne’s life? Why or why not? Would Anne agree with your assessment, or would she offer a different theme/event as the major marker for her life?

    Chew on This

    Although Anne’s adolescence is spent in hiding, her response to other people is remarkably similar to the way teenagers living normal lives in times of peace respond.

    Because Anne’s early teen years are spent in hiding, her experiences, emotions, and reactions to people are markedly different than those of a teenager living in a time of peace.

  • Love

    Anne Frank has many loves. She loves reading, writing, nature, movies, and her family and friends. She’s also obsessed with romantic love, experiments with romantic relationships, and has vivid romantic fantasies. Anne is in love with life and with living.

    Yet, because Anne has gone into hiding with her family (and some others) to try to stay alive in Nazi-occupied-Holland, during World War II, she lives a life of fear, frustration, and isolation. In The Diary of Anne Frank, Anne describes the almost always painful, sometimes ugly, and at times stunningly beautiful ways her love moves and changes under these conditions.

    Questions About Love

    1. What are some of the reasons Peter and Anne are attracted to each other?
    2. Why do Anne and her mother have such a hard time being loving to each other? Why is it so much easier between Anne and her father?
    3. Is Anne infatuated with Peter van Daan? If so, does this make her feelings less “real”?
    4. Does Anne's previous relationship with Peter Schiff influence her relationship with Peter van Daan? If so, how? If not, why not?
    5. Anne and Peter talk fairly openly about sex. What does this say about their relationship?

    Chew on This

    Anne and Peter’s romantic relationship never develops into true love.

  • Selfishness

    Throughout The Diary of Anne Frank, there are examples of pettiness in sharing personal items with everybody. For example, Mrs. van Daan does not want her sheets to be used, yet expects to use the Franks’ sheets. Mrs. Frank does not want to use her dinnerware, yet expects the van Daans dinnerware to be used.

    The generosity and self-sacrifice of the men and women who save the eight people in the Secret Annex are contrasted throughout the diary with Mrs. van Daan and Mr. Dussel, who hoard personal belongings and space and who fail to thank those who give them shelter in a time of desperate need.

    Questions About Selfishness

    1. Which characters demonstrate generosity? Which characters demonstrate greed and selfishness? Why are some people generous and some greedy?

    2. Does uncertainty about the future lead to greater generosity or increased selfishness? Is it easier to be generous if you have more to lose? Or is it easier to be greedy when you have more to lose? Who had more to lose, the Jews in the Secret Annex or their protectors?

    Chew on This

    Even though we might like to criticize Mrs. van Daan’s clinging to her belongings, her apparent stinginess and pettiness is merely a manifestation of the greater stress she was living under, not a consistent character defect.

    Although the protectors should be commended for their selflessness and bravery, it is also true that they had less at stake than the members of the Secret Annex.

    In Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, isolation causes greed.

  • Religion

    The Diary of Anne Frank doesn’t give us all that much information on Judaism as a religion. In fact, religion plays a somewhat subtle role in Anne’s story—“Christian” and “Jew” are more political than religious categories.

    While Anne identifies herself as a member of the Jewish religion, she reads avidly about a variety of religious perspectives and is in the process of deciding what God and religion mean to her on a personal level.

    Questions About Religion

    1. Does Anne’s increased awareness of her mortality and the suffering of others influence her religious outlook? If so, in what ways? If not, why not?
    2. To what extent is religion a part of life in the Secret Annex?
    3. What are some of the relationships between Christians and Jews in Holland, according to Anne?
    4. In what ways could Anne be considered a religious person? What about the other people in the Annex?

    Chew on This

    Anne is not a particularly religious person when she begins the diary, but religion becomes more and more important to her as time goes on.