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
Human Nature: Generosity and Greed Quotes in The Diary of Anne Frank
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!"