The Diary of a Young Girl: Theme Analysis

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Theme Analysis

Writing for Self-expression and Self-understanding
When Anne starts keeping a diary she is very clear in her mind about what her purpose is. She wants to confide her deepest feelings about everything, and she hopes the diary will be a source of comfort and support. In this she was not disappointed. She uses the diary as a tool for self-expression and self-understanding, and comes to depend on it to keep her spirits buoyant. As she writes, she examines her own personality, why she is the way she is, and how she interacts with others. As she thinks about these topics, she decides that she really has a twofold self. On the outside, there is the talkative, impudent, know-it-all self that all the others see. But there is also a quieter, deeper, more thoughtful person that lies within, a girl who has noble thoughts, is aware of her shortcomings, and is always trying to improve herself. The struggle between this twofold self is apparent throughout the diary, but Anne gives considered expression to it in her very last entry, on August 1, 1944.
Anne also uses the diary to understand herself as a growing woman, and figure out what her role in life will be. She does not regard either her mother or Mrs. van Daan, neither of whom had careers outside the home, as useful role models. She decides that for her, loving a husband and raising children would not give her sufficient fulfillment; she wants to make a larger impact on the world. One can see in her writings a distinct feminist consciousness ready to emerge. On June 13, 1944, she devotes considerable space to analyzing why women have been "thought to be so inferior to men," which she considers a great injustice.
Love of Nature
Although Anne is confined to the annex and cannot go outdoors, she can see the changing seasons through the window of the attic. Any glimpse of nature calms her. A good example occurs in her entry for February 23, 1944. She and Peter are in the attic in the morning and look out of the window "at the blue sky, the bare chestnut tree glistening with dew, the seagulls and other birds glinting with silver as they swooped through the air, and we were so moved and entranced that we couldn't speak." When the human world is chaotic and full of fear and danger, nature is a restorative force. It gives her a feeling that everything is as it should be: "I firmly believe that nature can bring comfort to all who suffer," she writes on February 23, 1944.
She writes again about nature on June 13, 1944, commenting that just looking at the sky, the clouds, the moon and the stars makes her feel calm. There is no substitute for it.
Anne's reflections on nature sound sometimes like those of the poet William Wordsworth, but one has to remember that Anne did not have the luxury of roaming England's beautiful Lake District. Her view of nature came through a dirt-caked window and more often than not through a curtain as well. But even with these obstacles, Anne shows that she is deeply responsive to the natural world.
Faith in God
In the later parts of her diary, Anne's references to God and religion increase. As she matures, she develops a religious faith to help her in the difficult situation she is in. This emerging faith is not something that she is just echoing from her parents, since they do not appear to have been especially religious; it is something she is developing from within herself. Her confinement has forced her to consider life in a way that might not have developed until much later had she had a normal childhood. Her religious faith helps her to have a stoic attitude to the situation, as she writes on April 11, 1944: "We must put our feelings aside; we must be brave and strong, bear discomfort without complaint, do whatever is in our power and trust in God." She thinks that being able to believe in a higher power is a blessing for anyone; religion, she says, "keeps a person on the right path" (July 6, 1944), although she is not interested in any particular religious doctrine. The fact that her friend Peter lacks any religious faith is a cause of disappointment to her.

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