Characterization in Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we will examine the strategies Anne uses to describe the other characters, both directly and indirectly, in Anne Frank's ''Diary of a Young Girl.''

Describing Characters

In Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl, Anne tells the story of being hidden in a small space for two years with not only her family, but another family and a middle-aged man. Her descriptions of the other characters, or characterizations, come through the unique perspective of an early teen. Sometimes she is humorous, sometimes thoughtful, and sometimes the characterizations come by accident as Anne uses details of their actions that contribute to character development. Let's learn more about characterizations in this story.

Direct Characterization

Direct characterization is the most straightforward method of describing a character. Anne uses direct characterization when she describes her first crush, Peter Schiff.

According to Anne, 'Peter was the ideal boy: tall, good-looking and slender, with a serious, quiet and intelligent face. He had dark hair, beautiful brown eyes, ruddy cheeks and a nicely pointed nose. I was crazy about his smile, which made him look so boyish and mischievous.' Anne's description helps the reader get a clear visual of Peter Schiff and understand why Anne is so crazy about him.

Another person that Anne describes using direct characterization is her mother, Mrs. Frank. Teenage girls tend to be tough on their moms, and Anne is no exception. She describes her mother as tactless, cruel and harsh. Indirectly, the reader catches a glimpse of a less harsh Mrs. Frank, but Anne's awareness of her mother's character is a bit unforgiving.


Another way that Anne describes the characters is by using dialogue. Dialogue is conversation between the characters.

For example, when Mrs. van Daan first walks into the annex, she carries with her a huge box and announces, 'I just don't feel at home without my chamber pot.' Anne's decision to put this in her diary paints a picture of Mrs. van Daan as a frivolous character that can't be taken too seriously. Further, she is constantly berating Anne by saying, 'You should have been at our house, where children were brought up the way they should be. I don't call this a proper upbringing. Anne is terribly spoiled. I'd never allow that. If Anne were my daughter. ..' Mrs. van Daan's own words make her less than endearing to the readers.

Mr. Dussel's own words to Anne when she asks him if she can use the desk in their shared room in the afternoon a few days a week as it was originally promised she would get it every afternoon, paint him as being selfish and immature. Mr. Dussel says to Anne, '… it's impossible to talk to you. You're shamefully self-centered. No one else matters, as long as you get your way. I've never seen such a child. But after all is said and done, I'll be obliged to let you have your way, since I don't want people saying later on that Anne Frank failed her exams because Mr. Dussel refused to relinquish his table!'

Action Details

We also learn about the characters based on their actions. Anne uses detail when describing the actions of the characters in order to help the reader understand the character more fully.

For example, we learn a lot about Mr. van Daan when after Peter sneaks a book that he isn't supposed to read, there was '… a slap, a whack and a tug-of-war, the book lay on the table and Peter was in the loft.' Mr. van Daan is at constant odds with someone and is not above using physical force to get his way.

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