UDC 82

TRANSFORMATION OF THE SELF IN THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK

Sedova Alyona Dmitrievna
Tomsk State Pedagogical University

Abstract
This article provides an analysis of The Diary of Anne Frank and considers transformation of her self.

Keywords: Anne Frank’s Diary, self-transformation


Category: 10.00.00 Philology

Article reference:
Transformation of the self in The Diary of Anne Frank // Modern scientific researches and innovations. 2013. № 9 [Electronic journal]. URL: http://web.snauka.ru/en/issues/2013/09/26423

View this article in Russian

Anne Frank’s Diary is not only a rich source of observations and comments on her private life and historical events happening at that time. It is an opportunity for us to see the process of her self-transformation. First of all, what does self-transformation imply and why is it so relevant to consider it in this diary?

To my mind, self-transformation is a process of consciousness evolution, primarily, within us. This is what we are to experience, cause and contribute. Self-transformation can be understood as converting barriers, fears, misinterpretations and the world that create a wrong self-identity. However, in my view, the process of self-transformation in The Diary of Anne Frank is foremost connected with early coming-of-age of the girl under accompanying circumstances.

As we know, Anne is a usual young girl who had to undergo difficult periods in her life. She started to keep her diary because of the sense of loneliness despite being surrounded by those who loved her. She lived by writing. Even before she went into hiding, Anne felt separated from other people around her. Certainly, she writes about things that adolescents are usually concerned about, such as problems with parents, boys, friends. It can be said that the diary is the only friend for her in the time of isolation; that is why she develops more and more self criticism and tells more details about her feelings, thoughts and hopes. It is a means to discover herself and understand her nature.

During the two years Anne was writing her diary, she changed in  many ways. By the end of the diary, we can barely recognize the girl we knew from the first diary entries. Anne’s changes are complicated, and cover many elements of her personality.

At the beginning we see her as a small girl who is not understood by the people surrounding her. All the time she mentions her tensed relationship with mother and sister. Sometimes she feels ignored by relatives. It even makes her think that no one bothers to ask her how she feels. Moreover, Anne sees the difference between the way her parents deal with Margot and the way they deal with her and she is a little bit jealous that her mother treats Margot better.  She feels herself gradually drifting away from mother and sister. Probably, it is because of youthful maximalism, but Anne sees injustice in everything.

From Anne’s perspective, her mother’s personality is alien for her, she doesn’t even know what Anne thinks about most ordinary things. Mom is not a friend of hers and Anne considers it to be a shame. This fact probably led to Anne’s becoming a self-contained person; therefore she doesn’t want to share her feelings with anyone. She is always criticized for behavior, personality, manners by her relatives. As she says, “harsh words are constantly flung at her head”. Isn’t it a strong stroke to her vulnerable teenager’s personality? This could become a reason why she states in one of her entries that she will rather be sentimental on her own. We also can notice that Anne frequently needs consolation and feels weak, but finds it, obviously, only in the diary. Later, while she was reading past entries with negative description of her mother’s and sister’s behavior, she started to perceive former Anne as a stranger which she now deemed the result of her childish views.

Because of such misunderstandings and offences, there are many situations where Anne’s rebellious nature is shown. She thinks high enough of herself. (“I’ll show them that Anne Frank wasn’t born yesterday!”). She states that she is aware of her shortcomings and faults, but they are always blown out of proportions. When she is offended by someone, she perceives it in an exaggerated way, takes it to heart, which is a common feature of teenagers. However, at the same time constant critics gives Anne an incentive to improve herself, it becomes her inspiration. She says that she “can’t imagine how anyone could say ‘I’m weak’ and then stay that way. If you know that about yourself, why not fight it, why not develop your character?”

According to the later entries we can judge about Anne’s self-identity in comparison to those reflected in the previous entries. Having returned to the diary, she revised it and left comments. Thus, for instance, in one of her commentaries she marked: “Now that I’m rereading my diary after a year and a half, I’m surprised at my childish innocence. Deep down I know, I could never be that innocent again, however, much I‘d like to be. I can’t imagine writing too openly about some things. My descriptions are so indelicate”.  In such a way she criticizes herself and feels a bit ashamed. She also changes her views about her character: in the future she wants to devote less time to sentimentality and more to reality.

What is rather important, by the end of the diary Anne finds out that there are two different sides of her: she can be happy, easy-going and, at the same time, serious and sensitive. The way she behaves depends on whether she is in public or on her own. She tends to be carefree and easy-going among other people, and susceptible inside. The readers get mostly a direct view of her inner entity, because we read her private thoughts. That is how she expresses her thoughts about these two sides: “I’m split in two. One side contains my exuberant cheerfulness, my flippancy, my joy in life and, above all, my ability to appreciate the lighter side of things. This side of me is usually lying in wait to ambush the other one, which is much purer, deeper and finer. No one knows Anne’s better side, and that’s why most people can’t stand me”.

During the period of puberty Anne was compelled to cope with many problems of adolescence by herself, as there was nobody with whom she could share her experiences. She became interested in love and sex, and felt affection to Peter. As long as this all was not still familiar to a young girl, the diary became an essential means for Anne’s self-discovery and maturity.

Apart from it, The Diary of Anne Frank contains a number of significant thought-provoking themes. These include, except for search of self, reflections about the war, nazism and hatred.

We can hardly find a page in the diary that doesn’t concern the political situation. It is because of the environment that surrounded the girl. Anne knows what goes on in concentration camps, and she knows that she, her family, and her friends are in a real danger because of the war.  As far as she wrote the diary, she began to sound more like an adult and we can notice that she is really anxious about political issues. She makes some strong statements about the war as the work of politicians and capitalists, the destructive urge in people to murder and kill; in addition, Anne turns to issues of women’s rights, and provides more detailed analysis of the war. In process of writing Anne made her discussions on politics more complex and we notice how weighty this topic is for her.

Additionally, it is worth to pay attention to how Anne takes the everyday consequences of war – she doesn’t only take care of herself, she is worried about other people as well. She mentions that her many friends are taken in droves, she is anxious how they are treated there and how they feel, she is not indifferent or self-centered. She writes that she can’t help thinking every day of those who are gone. We can see how the war influences Anne’s mood, how she is overwhelmed by dismay of losses, when a lot of people die and suffer and her own life becomes more unbearable.

In 1944 for the first time, Anne wrote about the possibility of her death. Though Anne considers it, she is not totally convinced that the life after war won’t come for her. Consequently she contemplates her possible future life and makes plans for it. She became highly reserved and shrewd about herself, and she begins to recall her past development, analyzes it and divides into phases. By criticizing her own past actions and thoughts, she shows her ability for growth and self-awareness, and these are two important aspects of coming-of-age.

As long as things are getting worse, Anne begins to worry that she will not manage to accomplish any of things she hopes to do, like writing a novel or doing her hobbies. However, her perspectives preserve an optimistic note and she continues to think about her future and decide how she will identify herself after the war.

In my opinion, namely from this moment Anne begins to consider herself an adult and search for her place in the world. She becomes aware of significance of her experience and realizes that sharing her words with others may become valuable. She starts to admit the worth of the diary and her personal thoughts, and she supposes that her diary will reach people after the war ends and be useful.

One more problem that arises in her diary is Anne’s defining her national identity. Due to the war, Anne ponders about her belonging to Germans and Jews. It is a rather complicated question for her as she initially identified herself as a German, since she was born in Germany and lived there for a long time. It is impossible for her now to admit that there is no close connection between the Germans and Jews anymore, that the Germans deny their nationality, hate and annihilate the Jewish population. She fixes this idea and writes: “Hitler took away our nationality long ago. There are no greater enemies on earth than the Germans and the Jews.”

Alongside the issues enumerated before, we should also refer to Anne’s development as a writer during the two years she spent in hiding. Firstly, the process of keeping diary gave her a sense of freedom and independence. Later it became for her a “tool” that helped her explore herself and discover her new sides. It is also known that her intended audience changed during that time. She began to reread her diaries to make them more like works of literature. This fact should be taken into account when we talk about the language she uses. It becomes more figurative and maybe even exquisite in some parts of the diary, especially when she expresses her feelings, associated with depression, frustration, fear and sympathy.

Anne’s final entries seem to us to be crucial. They contain more profound and philosophical ideas about herself and her life, and especially future. And these ideas are mostly deprived of positive things but still there can be seen a strong belief in surviving and better life after the war. “ It’s difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It’s a wonder I haven’t abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart. <..> I feel the suffering of millions. And yet, when I look up at the sky, I somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty too shall end, that peace and tranquillity will return once more. In the meantime, I must hold on to my ideals. Perhaps the day will come when I’ll be able to realize them!”

We know that Anne’s diary ends abruptly, she didn’t plan it, but in spite of it, these last thoughts full of desperation and pain appear to be a logical conclusion of it. Conveying her inner state tightly connected with pitiful circumstances, Anne concludes the diary with rather powerful words that reflect her ultimate understanding of herself: “I will finally end up turning my heart inside out, the bad part on the outside and the good part on the inside, and keep trying to find a way to become what I’d like to be and what I could be if . . . if only there were no other people in the world.”

To draw a conclusion about Anne Frank’s transformation of the self, we should say once again that Anne encountered so many obstacles in her life and managed to overcome them, though it was not that easy for her. To large extent, she changed under the imprint of these conditions. From a young, ordinary girl she turned into a sophisticated and wise in experience adult who tried to improve herself. Anne worked on her behavior, tried to control her words and actions, restrain emotions and temper. Furthermore, she had an unusual insight, she could be a good judge of characters, understand human’s nature and people’s relationship. Anne started to act kinder to the other people and think more optimistic. What is worth to emphasize here, besides, is that Anne changed not only inside but physically and it had its influence on her inner development as well; she experienced love and tried to understand and explore what it is.

The war is what everybody was afraid of, and Anne, obviously, was not an exception. She went through the hard times but still didn’t lose her composure and courage, we could witness how she became stronger morally and learned how to live with it, how to be a master of herself. In my view, the war was the most powerful circumstance that affected forming of Anne’s character and personality.

What is more, Anne’s way of thinking also became mature. She was more and more concerned about her future and yet decided to become a journalist or a writer; that gave her an inspiration to develop her writing skills, work on style and express her thoughts in a more delicate way.

At the end we find a completely different Anne with a changed self. She is now more thoughtful, conscientious and meditative. She left after her life not only the diary of a young girl who was writing under extraordinary circumstances, but a a work that still remains an archive of those dreadful days and trials from the perspective of a little but wise and precocious girl.

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