Wartime takes a toll on any economy. People are expected to give up certain comforts to help the nation win. During World War II, many people in war-torn countries were expected to ration their food. They would only be allowed an allotment of bread, sugar, and other necessities. In this case, the eight people in the annex are surviving on the rations for three. They are literally starving. As Anne reflects, "We're all a little thinner" (2.1).
People who don't eat get extremely grumpy and irritable. They lose focus, and it's hard to think about anything else but food (notice the scene where the family fights over the cake). Add to this the living conditions of a tiny townhouse for eight people and it's amazing that the annex residents are able to civil to one another.
But does that mean all bets are off just because they're starving? Does hunger outweigh morality? Maybe morality is how we handle ourselves in a crisis, or the compassion we give to our fellow man, when we ourselves have nothing. For the residents in the Annex, morality is clear by how they handle themselves in some tough situations.
Questions About Morality
Which characters display the most compassion in the play? Which display the least?
Did Miep and Mr. Kraler feel it was their moral obligation to protect the Annex residents? How do you know?
How does the play help the audience think about morality during World War II?
What is the moral dilemma regarding Mr. Van Daan and his choices with the food?
Chew on This
Mr. Van Daan's greed for food reflects his lack of morality.
Miep and Mr. Kraler are the most moral characters in the play.