Friday, February 15, 2013

Re-reading The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

I was just clearing out my bookshelf, when I found this battered old copy of The Diary of a Young Girl. I re-read a few dozen pages of the book and realized that though growing up did (thankfully) affect my opinions in various ways, what I feel about this book is still the same.

The first thing people say when I tell them I'm not the biggest fan of this book is that I should consider that she was only a child when she wrote it. I have always felt that people underestimate children once they grow up. I read Anne Frank's diary when I was twelve, probably younger than she was when she wrote it, and I found it as silly then as I find it now. It was chilling to think of someone my age in a situation as unsettling, it was odd how immature her writing made her seem.

"Before I came here, when I didn't think about things as much as I do now, I occasionally had the feeling that I didn't belong to Momsy, Pim and Margot and that I would always be an outsider. I sometimes went around for six months at a time pretending I was an orphan. Then I'd chastise myself for playing the victim, when really, I'd always been so fortunate. After that I'd force myself to be friendly for a while. (...)
Everything has gotten much worse here. But you already knew that. Now God has sent someone to help me: Peter. I fondle my pendant, press it to my lips and think, "What do I care! Peter is mine and nobody knows it!" With this in mind, I can rise above every nasty remark. Which of the people here would suspect that so much is going on in the mind of a teenage girl?

Is that really "so much"? My 12-year-old self didn't seem to think so. I must have considered my having been through much less with what seemed to be a much greater measure of maturity, when I called the diary 'shallow', 'boring'. Now, re-reading the book I found it endearing that Anne Frank never seemed to lose her innocence throughout all that she had to go through. She managed to remain silly, stubborn, judgmental, overly sentimental and it's tragic, that that was all she ever was. I know that she wanted to publish her diary later herself, but I think forty years from then, had she survived, she would have considered it fondly, perhaps but, found it kind of silly herself. That she never had the chance to grow up, along with a thousand others, for no fault of her own is indescribably awful. But the extraordinary circumstances of the book don't change the fact that it is little more than the diary of an ordinary young girl.


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