Study Guide

Anne Frank in The Diary of Anne Frank (play)

By Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett

Anne Frank

Young at Heart

It should be pretty much a given that Anne Frank is our hero. She's wise beyond her years, fun, caring, and outspoken. (Hey, that sounds a lot like us.) She was also devoted to her studies and wanted to be a writer. Yeah, we love Anne Frank.

As we get to know the Anne in the play, we see that she's also a free spirit and incapable of being tamed. Imagine putting that kind of person in a box and sealing the lid—yikes.

The writers of the play try to show us what happens when a thirteen-year-old practical jokester gets trapped inside with a bunch of adults. The result is a gut-wrenching tale a bit different from the Anne and her diary we know so well (if you want our take on that Anne, see us over at Shmoop HQ for all the info). There's no one in the Annex for Anne to be silly with or to help her deal with her situation at the teenage level. Anne's dad is there to keep her sane, but even he can't ward off the fights with her mom, the loneliness, and total claustrophobia. Worst of all, he can't change the terror going on right outside the Annex walls.

Anne's so scared of her situation that she wakes up at night, screaming with nightmares. We can't even imagine what that must be like for a parent, much less a kid contemplating her own death. Still, we have to bust out the hankies when Anne explains that her fondest wish is just to go outside and ride her bike: "For myself, there are so many things… to ride a bike again… to laugh till my belly aches… to have new clothes from the skin out… to be back in school with my friends" (1.4).

Character Building

Even so, throughout the play Anne continues to grow and to improve her character. The authors continually contrast the changing and growing Anne with the other characters in the Annex, who remain static. While the Van Daans exhibit selfishness and fear, Anne consistently demonstrates love, affection, and the willingness to forgive. Between Anne's mom's expectations, and everyone's constant comparisons of her to her much more mature and demure sister Margot, it would be easy for the feisty Anne's to be a negative person. Instead, she continually tries to better herself.

For example, she uses any and all tools at her disposal to think her way out of her situations. She uses her father's coaching to help her build a positive attitude, and even sways Peter Van Daan into friendship with her courage. Her dedication to writing in her diary helps her deal with the crisis at hand, while also helping her become more introspective, "I can shake off everything, if I write" (2.3). She is able to develop the creative side of her personality while at the same time making peace with her isolation.

The Soft, Gushy Center

Anne continues to strive to be the person she knows she can and should be. The audience is able to see this development in her softer side as she shines in her actions and dialogue on stage. We see that she is super-intelligent and always aware of other peoples' feelings. She cares deeply for others and is quick to forgive. Through her ordeal of total isolation and the ever-present fear of discovery, we are able to see Anne turn from baby prankster into confident, mature woman. She surpasses the other characters by accepting her situation, and continuing to see the world from a positive perspective. Otto Frank recognizes this at the end of the play, when the words in his daughter's diary exemplify how a young person in such a terrible situation can still see the good in the world. He says, "She puts me to shame" (2.5), and it's almost as if the playwrights have echoed our own thoughts.

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