Mr. Van Daan in Diary of a Young Girl: Character Analysis

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  • 0:03 A Typical Teenager
  • 0:46 A Man in Hiding
  • 1:52 Strain on the Family
  • 2:25 Tragic Ending
  • 2:38 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Catherine Rose

Catherine taught middle and high school English and has a master's degree in Education.

In this lesson, we'll explore the analysis of Mr. Van Daan, a character found in 'The Diary of Young Girl.' We'll see how this person impacted the existence of Anne Frank and the other members in hiding during the Holocaust.

A Typical Teenager

Imagine the life of a typical teenage girl. Most are thinking about dating, school, future plans, and activities in which they are involved. However, Anne Frank's life was quite different as we find out in The Diary of Young Girl. In this personal account, she describes her stressful and conflicted existence during World War II hiding in a small annex with her family, the Van Daan family, and Mr. Dussel, a friend of the Franks.

While Anne gives a lot of insight into her thoughts about the world and her future plans, it is her descriptions of some of the other inhabitants that many find intriguing. One such character is Mr. Van Daan.

Let's explore what we learn about Mr. Van Daan in The Diary of Young Girl.

A Man in Hiding

Mr. Van Daan was really Hermann Van Pels, but his name was changed to Van Daan when the diary was published. He was in the meat business, but when the Nazis imposed restrictions on Jewish businesses, he sold his family business and went to work for Mr. Otto Frank as a meat seasoning specialist. It is this relationship that makes it possible for Mr. Van Daan, his wife Petronella (as Anne calls her), and their son Peter to go into hiding with the Franks as life becomes increasingly dangerous.

While Anne does not mention Mr. Van Daan a lot in the diary, she does describe him as 'intelligent, opinionated, pragmatic, and somewhat egotistical.' When Anne does talk about him, he is usually arguing with his wife or trying to do whatever he can to please her so she will be quiet. Anne seems exasperated by the trivial subjects about which he and Mrs. Van Daan shout at each other, but she finds it so ridiculous that decides it is not worth her time.

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