The Diary of Anne Frank

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Themes and Colors
Inner Self, Outer Self, and Isolation Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Love and Sexuality Theme Icon
Human Nature: Generosity and Greed Theme Icon
World War II: Fear, Suffering, and Hope Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Diary of Anne Frank, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Human Nature: Generosity and Greed Theme Icon

Given the extreme circumstances of life in the Annex, Anne's exploration of human nature often focuses on generosity and greed. The adults around her buckle under the pressure of confinement and find themselves struggling between being generous (a vestige of their prewar life) and being greedy (which, to be fair, is what they often have to do in order to survive). Mr. Dussel, for example, often hoards food, and Anne takes him to task for this. Can he really be blamed, though, given the circumstances? This greed is contrasted with the apparent selflessness of those who help the Franks, the van Daans, and Mr. Dussel go into hiding. The adults living in the Annex are sometimes at odds with one another regarding how much they should share with their Christian helpers. "The van Daans don't see why we should bake a spice cake for Mr. Kugler's birthday when we can't have one ourselves," Anne writes. "All very petty."

Anne's diary eventually becomes an overt dissection of human nature. Are the people around her essentially good? (Anne would like to think so.) And how does one preserve one's humanity in the face of such extraordinary circumstances? Anne's solution to this problem involves a number of things: confiding in her journal; keeping up her studies and schoolwork; unflinchingly examining her shortcomings before she goes to sleep each night; finding comfort in the beauty of nature; falling in love with Peter. Of course, the diary also ends suddenly, as the Nazi's are tipped off to the residents of the Annex and all of those residents are taken to concentration camps. As such, the Nazis serve as a constant counterpoint to Anne's thoughts about human nature, representing the depths of evil that humanity can reach.

Human Nature: Generosity and Greed ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Human Nature: Generosity and Greed appears in each section of The Diary of Anne Frank. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Human Nature: Generosity and Greed Quotes in The Diary of Anne Frank

Below you will find the important quotes in The Diary of Anne Frank related to the theme of Human Nature: Generosity and Greed.
Year 1942 Quotes

I think it's odd that grown-ups quarrel so easily and so often and about such petty matters. Up till now I always thought bickering was just something children did and that they outgrew it.

Related Characters: Anne Frank (speaker), Otto Frank ("Pim"), Edith Frank, Hermaan van Daan, Petronella van Daan
Page Number: 44
Explanation and Analysis:

Much of Anne's descriptions of daily life in the Secret Annexe in late September are riddled with fights between various inhabitants of this confined space. For example, on September 27, Anne mentions quarrels between her and her mother, her and her sister Margot, and her and Mrs. Van Daans. The following day, Anne begins by claiming she has another quarrel to describe, but then inserts a lengthy reflection about the unspoken similarities between adults and children and the overwhelmingly "petty" nature of so many disagreements. This meditation exemplifies Anne's uncanny maturity; she is barely an adolescent, but she accurately finds flaws in the interactions among adults. Her diary addresses universal yet petty human conflicts, as well as the Holocaust, one of recent history's greatest tragedies.


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Fine specimens of humanity, those Germans, and to think I'm actually one of them! No, that's not true, Hitler took away our nationality long ago. And besides, there are no greater enemies on earth than the Germans and the Jews.

Related Characters: Anne Frank (speaker)
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

On one day in October, Anne only shares "dismal and depressing news" about the outside world with her diary. She describes recent events in detail: Jewish individuals in the Netherlands are being taken to concentration camps (or, in Anne's words, Jewish camps), prisoners are being murdered through gassing, and the papers report hostages' deaths as "fatal accidents." These events all point to the maliciousness of the German people and the Nazi regime, but they inspire Anne to sarcasm (as she writes "Fine specimens of humanity, those Germans"). This demonstrates how Anne's diary gives her agency in an otherwise powerless position; she cannot change the events that occur outside of her individual existence, but she can at least shape the way in which she responds to them. She cannot even control her identity: the Germans took her nationality away from her by rejecting her, along with the broader Jewish community. Of course, the Germans are killing the Jewish people as well as rejecting them, which leads Anne to claim that there are "no greater enemies on Earth" than the Jews and the Germans. She is seemingly being partly sarcastic here, as it is only through Nazi propaganda that this idea became so widespread (otherwise, German Jews would just be Germans), but her words have also become deadly accurate, summarizing the unique horror of World War II.

Year 1943 Quotes

My mind boggles at the profanity this honorable house has had to endure in the past month…To tell you the truth, I sometimes forget who we're at odds with and who we're not.

Related Characters: Anne Frank (speaker)
Page Number: 137
Explanation and Analysis:

In October of 1943, Anne pauses to reflect on the sheer quantity of arguing that occurs in the annex (as much as she can reflect on it when it "boggles" her mind). Inhabitants walk around with physical signs of agitation -- pursed lips, red cheeks -- and experience insomnia and headaches because there is so often conflict. Apparently, it even becomes difficult to recall who is fighting with whom at any given time. This reinforces the unnecessary nature of these conflicts -- and all human conflicts, including the conflict between the Germans, the Jews, and the Allies which so structures this narrative.

Year 1944 Quotes

The world's been turned upside down. The most decent people are being sent to concentration camps, prisons and lonely cells, while the lowest of the low rule over young and old, rich and poor. One gets caught for black marketeering, another for hiding Jews or other unfortunate souls. Unless you're a Nazi, you don't know what's going to happen to you from one day to the next.

Related Characters: Anne Frank (speaker)
Page Number: 305
Explanation and Analysis:

On May 25th, Anne and the rest of the annex's inhabitants learn that Mr. van Hoeven has been arrested for hiding two Jewish people in his house. This unfortunate news compounds with all of the other horrors happening nowadays, inspiring Anne to notice that the entire world is "upside down" -- normal balances are so shifted that only Nazis (she assumes) can know what will occur in the future. The world's normal binaries are complicated and upset, as the good are punished despite their (and often for their) selfless intentions. Virtuous actions require the individual courage to contradict the immoral rules currently presiding over German society.

How noble and good everyone could be if, at the end of each day, they were to review their own behavior and weigh up the rights and wrongs. They would automatically try to do better at the start of each new day and, after a while, would certainly accomplish a great deal. Everyone is welcome to this prescription; it costs nothing and is definitely useful. Those who don't know will have to find out by experience that "a quiet conscience gives you strength!"

Related Characters: Anne Frank (speaker)
Page Number: 326
Explanation and Analysis:

During July 6th of 1944, Anne describes how Peter is beginning to emotionally depend and "lean" on her, against her wishes. Peter is a "poor body" who is spiritually lost, emotionally searching, and lacking confidence about his own abilities. Anne reflects that religious beliefs can help individuals stay on their "right path," not out of fear of God but rather out of paying attention to their own inner conscience. She then introduces and advocates for her own sort of spiritual practice: a daily examination of conscience about one's behavior that day, one's "rights and wrongs." Like most of Anne's suggestions, this is universal to the human experience and is unrelated to social processes such as economy, politics, and reputation. Removed as she is from much of society, Anne chooses to focus on internal experience.