Diary of Anne Frank by Albert Hackett & Frances Goodrich: Summary & Characters

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  • 0:02 Background of the Play
  • 0:57 Characters in 'The…
  • 2:17 Summary of 'The Diary…
  • 5:56 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Raudenbush
Albert Hackett and Frances Goodrich based their play 'The Diary of Anne Frank' on the diary of a Jewish girl hiding from the Nazis in Holland during WWII. Examining the play and its characters will help you see why this work is a masterpiece.

Background of the Play

By the time The Diary of Anne Frank debuted in 1955, its writers, Albert Hackett and his wife Frances Goodrich, were already established Hollywood writers. They had received Academy Award nominations for several works. The Diary of Anne Frank would earn them the 1956 Pulitzer Prize for drama. In 1959, Goodrich and Hackett adapted their stage play for a movie version that would later win three Academy Awards.

Goodrich and Hackett based their masterwork on the book Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl. Anne Frank, a Jewish teenager, wrote the diary over a two-year period while she, her family, and others hid from the Nazis in the German-occupied Netherlands until their capture in 1944. Anne's father, the only survivor of the group, recovered the diary in 1945. He sold it to Dutch publishers in 1947.

The Characters in The Diary of Anne Frank

Otto Frank: Anne's father, Mr. Frank owned the building that concealed the secret annex. Anne often refers to him as Pim.

Edith Frank: Otto's wife and mother to Anne and Margot.

Anne Frank: A teenage Jewish girl who records her family's experience in the secret annex in the diary her father gives her on her 13th birthday.

Margot Frank: Anne's older sister. She is quiet, mature, and respectful.

Mr. Van Daan: A large man, often greedy and selfish about food. Mr. Van Daan helped Mr. Frank in business when the Franks arrived in Holland. Mr. Frank repaid the debt by agreeing to hide the Van Daan's in the secret annex.

Mrs. Van Daan: Flirtatious and materialistic, Mrs. Van Daan often clashes with the selfless and quiet Mrs. Frank. She disapproves of Anne on several occasions.

Peter Van Daan: A quiet boy a few years older than Anne.

Mr. Dussel: A dentist who retreats when Nazis discover his Jewish roots. His neuroses become disruptive.

Miep Gies: A worker at the factory who supports the occupants of the secret annex by bringing them food and news from the outside world.

Mr. Kraler: A former business associate of Mr. Frank, who also helps the families.

The Summary of The Diary of Anne Frank

Act One, Scene One

The play opens in 1945, as Otto Frank returns to the secret annex, the concealed rooms above his former business where his family hid for two years. This space is the setting for the play. Miep Gies joins him and hands him Anne's diary, which she had saved from the Nazis. Frank begins reading the diary, initiating a flashback to the day the family went into hiding.

Act One, Scene Two

When the curtain rises, the Van Daan's enter the secret annex. Mr. Frank explains that the occupants must remain silent during the day while work goes on in the factory below. The audience also meets Mr. Kraler. At the end of the scene, Mr. Frank gives Anne the diary.

Act One, Scene Three

Tension develops in the secret annex. Anne and the Van Daan's son Peter antagonize each other. Mr. Van Daan harangs Peter over his studies. Mrs. Van Daan overtly flirts with Otto Frank. The scene ends with the arrival of Mr. Dussel, who joins the two families in hiding. Mr. Frank decides Anne must share her room with Dussel, setting up more tension.

Act One, Scene Four

Months later, Anne experiences a nightmare that awakens everyone in the annex. Anne tells her father that she wants to be good, but can't control the way she acts out. The audience gets the first glimpse of Dussel's chronic neuroses that contribute to an ongoing conflict with the other occupants.

Act One, Scene Five

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