Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Diary of a Young Girl

Picture found on:
"I have often been downcast, but never in despair; I regard our hiding as a dangerous adventure, romantic and interesting at the same time. In my diary I treat all the privations as amusing. I have made up my mind now to lead a different life from other girls and, later on, different from ordinary housewives. My start has been so very full of interest, and that is the sole reason why I have to laugh at the humourous side of the most dangerous moments." 
My apologies for beginning this post with a horrible confession... When I was made to read Anne Frank's diary in my early high school years as part of the English curriculum, I read the first half of her book and didn't bother with the rest. Reflecting on that now, I feel terribly guilty about it and I should be brought up before a "Literary Board" for disciplinary action.

I guess I should start by defending my actions. Here's the thing. I'm sure those who are reading this post don't need me to explain Anne Frank's legacy... Anne Frank's diary is not only a work of history but it is also a wonderful piece of literature. And with any piece of good literature, it is to be enjoyed and reflected upon at one's own leisure. So when you're 'forced' to analyse the crap out of a beautiful book, attend a class full of kids who don't want to partake in tedious discussion, and be made to read 'so-and-so' pages in one day, one can surely sympathise with my actions! Setting a book of this calibre, as part of a learning curve in a rowdy Year 9 English class, was not going to be a successful manoeuvre by any means. In fact, it removed any sense of enjoyment that reading is supposed to give. And at that time, I was more concerned about hanging out with friends and watching mindless reality TV shows, to give any care for her work. I could apply this to all books that we were 'forced' to read in high school. (Apart from My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult... as this book was set for a Year 12 class sitting an English exam, so everyone had to pay attention.)

Reading her diary the second time around (from cover to cover), I finally had the chance to soak in how truly wonderful her story is. I was able to take in all her hope, misery, love and ambition portrayed through the pages. At parts, joyous, and at others, terribly sad. For me, the hardest part was reading her hopes and dreams she hoped to achieve, once she was able to step out of the Annexe - and sadly, could not be fulfilled. Thankfully, not all was lost. Her dreams to become a famous writer were seen, and the world was better for it.

I remember a question that was put to my English class one day (please don't ask me how I remember this...):

Would Anne Frank's diary had been as successful if she had survived?

Having now read the diary in full(!), my answer is no. The beauty in her work lies with the sadness of her death. We're not able to ask her the meaning behind her letters and must settle for the abrupt, incomplete ending to her diary. World War 2 and the Holocaust speaks of terrible grievances around the world and Anne Frank's diary is a reflection of light to an otherwise horrendous darkness. The faith and hope shown in her writing is something we all hold onto during times of unhappiness - it's a survival mechanism for those in hardship. And the ability to reach and connect to those who read is something all writers try to achieve. It is no wonder that her writings has secured their place as one of the most famous in history. 

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