Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideasexplored in a literary work.
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The Loneliness of Adolescence
Anne Frank’s perpetual feeling of being lonely and misunderstood providesthe impetus for her dedicated diary writing and colors many of theexperiences she recounts. Even in her early diary entries, in whichshe writes about her many friends and her lively social life, Anneexpresses gratitude that the diary can act as a confidant with whomshe can share her innermost thoughts. This might seem an odd sentimentfrom such a playful, amusing, and social young girl, but Anne explainsthat she is never comfortable discussing her inner emotions, evenaround close friends. Despite her excitement over developing intoa woman, and despite the specter of war surrounding her, Anne nonethelessfinds that she and her friends talk only about trivial topics.
We learn later in the diary that neither Mrs. Frank norMargot offers much to Anne in the way of emotional support. ThoughAnne feels very connected to her father and derives strength andencouragement from him, he is not a fitting confidant for a thirteen-year-oldgirl. Near the end of her diary, Anne shares a quotation she once readwith which she strongly agrees: “Deep down, the young are lonelierthan the old.” Because young people are less able than adults todefine or express their needs clearly, they are more likely to feellonely, isolated, and misunderstood. Living as a Jew in an increasinglyanti-Jewish society, in cramped and deprived circumstances, heightensthe isolation Anne feels and complicates her struggle for identity.
Anne occasionally turns to the cats that live in theannex for affection. Noticing that Peter van Daan also plays withthe cats, Anne speculates that he must also suffer from a lack ofaffection. Anne’s observation softens her view of Peter, whom sheonce considered obnoxious and lazy, and these thoughts cause herto think that they might have something in common. Their ensuingfriendship and budding romance stave off their feelings of loneliness.Margot, who like the other members of the annex witnesses the changing natureof Anne and Peter’s relationship, expresses her jealousy that Annehas found a confidant. Evidently, Anne is not the only one in theannex suffering from the deprivation of friends.
Feelings of loneliness and isolation also play out inthe larger scheme of the annex. All the inhabitants feel anxious,fearful, and stressed because of their circumstances, yet no onewants to burden the others with such depressing feelings. As a result,the residents become impatient with one another over trivial mattersand never address their deeper fears or worries. This constant maskingand repression of serious emotions creates isolation and misunderstandingbetween all the residents of the annex.
The Inward versus the Outward Self
Anne frequently expresses her conviction that there are“two Annes”: the lively, jovial, public Anne whom people find amusingor exasperating; and the sentimental, private Anne whom only she trulyknows. As she comes to understand her actions and motivations betterover the course of her writing, Anne continually refers to thisaggravating split between her inward and outward character.
Anne is aware of this dichotomy from a young age. Inher early diary entries she explains that though she has many friendsand acquaintances, she feels she does not have one person to whomshe can really open up. She regrets that she does not share hertrue self with her friends or family. Anne expresses frustrationthat she does not know how to share her feelings with others, andshe fears that she is vulnerable to attacks on her character. Whenher relationship with Peter begins, Anne wonders whether he willbe the first one to see through the outer, public Anne and findher true self beneath.