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Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl: Plot & Timeline

Instructor: Katherine Garner

Katie teaches middle school English/Language Arts and has a master's degree in Secondary English Education

This lesson discusses the plot of Anne Frank's ''Diary of a Young Girl'' as well as the timeline of important events by year, as they are recorded by Anne in her diary entries.

How the Diary Structure Affects Plot

Does your diary have a plot-line? Since Diary of a Young Girl is composed of journal entries written in first person by Anne Frank, the book was not written according to a traditional story structure. Even so, the reader can identify a beginning, middle, and end to the developments in characters and their relationships that happen over the course of the book.

Let's look into the important events in the timeline of the diary as Anne describes them herself.

Anne Frank in 1940
Anne Frank in 1940

Beginning: 1942

The Story

Anne begins to set the stage as she introduces herself, her family, and the others hiding with her in the annex, rooms attached to her father's office building. In the entries for the summer and fall of 1942, Anne lets us know who she is, how they became a family in hiding, and how everyone in the annex relates to one another. She makes it clear that she doesn't get along well with her sister Margot, her mother, and Mrs. Van Daan.

Throughout these entries, she explains how her little band of family and friends fare in light of the radio updates they hears about the war.

The Timeline

  • June 12, 1942--Anne receives her diary for her thirteenth birthday and begins writing entries. At this point her family is still living in a comfortable middle-class home in Amsterdam. She describes the laws in Holland that restrict Jews, such as having to wear stars of David to identify themselves, not being allowed to drive cars, and having to go to Jewish schools and segregated shops.
  • July 5, 1942--Otto, Anne's father, is summoned to report to a German work camp. The family was already planning on going into hiding but they decide to do it right away. The family moves into the secret annex attached to Mr. Frank's office building and Anne records this series of events in her entries on July 8th and 9th, 1942.
  • July 13--Another family, whom Anne calls the Van Daans but whose actual name was the Van Pels, arrive to join the Franks in hiding. The Van Daans have a teenage son, Peter.
  • November 17, 1942--An eighth person joins the group in the annex: a single dentist named Pfeffer (Anne calls him Dussel in her diary). The cast is complete.

The Long Wait: 1943

The Story

The initial relief at being saved from certain death is replaced by fear of being discovered. Tensions mount in the annex. Anne records how those around her argue frequently. She is particularly mad at her mother and complains that she always takes her sister's side in arguments. Her tensions fit her context, as threats from outside keep Anne fearful that they will be discovered.

In several entries, Anne complains that their food is very bad: plain, unbuttered bread for breakfast and lettuce or spinach with rotten-tasting potatoes for lunch. It's a long, wearying journey that seems to be taking Anne no where.

The Timeline

  • February 27, 1943--the owner of the office building sells it without telling the employees who have been helping them hide.
  • September 10, 1943--Italy capitulates, or surrenders. This is good news and Anne becomes hopeful that the war will end soon.

The Tension between Openness and Safety: 1944

The Story

Even in the cramped annex, Anne and the others begin to flourish in spite of their circumstances. Anne, always worried about being discovered by Germans, begins to allow herself to be discovered by her friends. In the midst of self-discovery and self-disclosure, she learns that burglars have broken into the building where she hides. The tension between openness and security plays out interpersonally and internationally over the later entries of the book. In her last entry, she sets down her final thoughts on this tension.

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