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Anne Frank is the author, main character, and protagonist of the diary, which she begins to write shortly after her thirteenth birthday, on June 12, 1942. The diary has been a special birthday present from her father, to whom she feels very close. Under ordinary circumstances, Anne would be considered an ordinary young teenage girl, struggling to find her own identity. She is somewhat jealous of Margot, her older sister by three years, for most people consider Margot to be more beautiful, talented, and intelligent than Anne. She also resents her mother, whom she feels is overly protective and critical. Anne, like many teenagers, longs to be independent, to do well in school, to enjoy life, and to have girlfriends and boyfriends. Because she is Jewish and living in Holland during the reign of Hitler, she is unable to have an ordinary life and fulfill her dreams.
By the time Anne begins the diary, Jewish people are already being persecuted by the Nazis. In fact, Mr. Frank moved the family to Holland in 1933 to escape Hitler's restrictions on the Jews in Germany. Then when Hitler invaded Holland in 1940, Anne was forced to leave her school to attend a Jewish one. Being a lively and personable young girl, she easily made the transition. When she is forced to go into hiding with her family in July of 1942, Anne also handles it better than her mother and sister; they are so upset that they go to bed, but Anne helps her father unpack and set up house in the secret annex. Throughout the rest of the diary, Anne shows her ability to cope in a variety of ways.
Initially, Anne views the move to the annex as an adventure, almost like a vacation. It is obvious that in the beginning she is too immature to understand the seriousness of the Franks' situation. Soon, however, she is disturbed by the lack of privacy, the necessity of staying quiet, the impossibility of leaving the annex or going outside, the bickering with her anxious mother and sister, and the underlying fear of being discovered. Matters grow worse for Anne when the Van Daans join them in the annex, for their already cramped quarters become more crowded and less private; additionally, she finds Mrs. Van Daan to be an irritating and quarrelsome woman, who constantly fights with her husband and criticizes Anne. Then Anne must endure accepting Mr. Dussel into the annex; she is very upset when she learns she must share her room with this old dentist. Now, there is absolutely no privacy for her.
Mr. Frank senses that Anne and the other young people in the annex are extremely bored with their monotonous existence. As a result, he finds books for the teens to read and prepares lessons for them to study. He even sends away for a correspondence course to teach Margot and Anne shorthand. Besides doing her chores, studying, and reading, Anne also comes up with her own entertainment. She chatters about her childhood, practices her dancing, and writes in her diary, which becomes her best friend; she even names the diary "Kitty." She is also allowed to occasionally help in the office downstairs, and she and the entire family faithfully listen to the radio, hoping to hear good news about the war. Although her life in the annex is cramped and routine, Anne tries to maintain a positive outlook.
Throughout the diary, Anne struggles with two wars. The first is the outside war, caused by Hitler and the Nazis. Many of the entries in her diary talk about the Nazi treatment of the Jewish people. In the early part of the diary, she tells how the Jews have to wear yellow stars, cannot own bicycles or cars, can shop only in Jewish shops during certain hours, cannot attend the theater or movies, cannot visit with Christians, and cannot go out after dark. Later during her stay in the annex, Anne realizes that the Jewish persecution is much more serious; she explains how the Jews are captured and sent to concentration camps to face the gas chambers, the firing squads, or the crematoriums. At times she lives in fear of being discovered and imprisoned herself.
Other entries talk about the immediate war raging outside the annex. Anne describes the constant air raids and bombardment of Amsterdam, which cause great fear for her and the other occupants of the annex; they realize that if a bomb hits the building they are in, they will die immediately or burn to death. Still other entries talk about the progress of the war in general, for the families in hiding closely follow the Allied attacks against the Nazis and hope for Hitler's defeat. Even though good news is seldom heard on the radio, Anne keeps hoping that the British will arrive to push the Nazis from Holland. She dreams about living in freedom once again.
The other war that Anne faces is the one raging inside her. Being an adolescent is never easy, but being a young Jewish teenager in hiding from the Nazis is miserable. She longs for a normal life - to have friends, to go to school, to have some independence and privacy, to go outside. Instead, she is cramped inside a few small rooms for more than two years, having to share her tiny space with an old, bossy, and irritating dentist. In addition, she must put up with the regular bickering amongst all the inhabitants and the constant criticism of an anxious mother, a quibbling sister, and a rude Mrs. Van Daan. It is no wonder that Anne often fights with others and cries herself to sleep, especially since she is a sensitive girl.
Anne takes refuge in her diary, even at times considering it her best friend. In the diary she can write her deepest thoughts and feelings, which reveal her adolescent struggles. A review of the entries shows Anne's frustrations and her process of maturing. During the early part of her stay in the annex, it is obvious that she is an annoying, chattering, spoiled child of thirteen. By the end of her stay, she is a mature young lady of fifteen who tries to improve herself. She works at holding her temper, controlling her argumentative ways, being less judgmental, acting kinder to the other occupants (especially her mother and sister), and thinking more positively. At times she succeeds, and at times she feels herself a failure. Anne also reveals that she is maturing in the interest she shows in the opposite sex. She begins to think of an old boyfriend and dream of movie stars. She also develops an interest in Peter Van Daan, whom she first considered too quiet, shy, and awkward to be of any interest. She begins to spend all of her time with him, and when her parents object, she boldly stands up to them, refusing to change her ways. By the time the occupants are captured, Anne is truly in love with Peter.
The diary also reveals that Anne's thinking becomes very mature, far beyond her fifteen years. With plenty of time to contemplate life, she dares to think about her future, deciding she wants to become a writer or a journalist, not just a housewife and mother like most women of her time. She also learns to accept her present situation, understanding she has little control over it. All she can do is fight to survive and try to control her chatter and her poor behaviour in order to make life less miserable for everyone in the annex. She also has some very adult thoughts that are beautifully expressed. For example, she states, "The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere they can be quite alone with heaven, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature. As long as this exists, it will certainly always be a comfort for every sorrow, whatever the circumstances may be. And I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles." Such mature philosophies, expressed by a young teenager, make The Diary of a Young Girl a true masterpiece.
In August of 1944, the Gestapo discovers the secret annex, and Anne and the other occupants are captured and sent to concentration camps. Anne dies from typhus in the Belsen camp in Germany in the spring of 1945. Fortunately, her diary was saved and later published. It is a masterful tribute to the intelligence, talent, maturity, bravery, and sensitivity of Anne Frank, a special young Jewish girl in hiding during World War II. It is also a beautifully written testament to the power of faith, love, and goodness in the worst of time.