This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Diary of a Young Girl" by Anne Frank. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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What was the relationship between Anne and Peter? How did it develop throughout the book?
Initially, Anne didn’t like Peter in a romantic way. He was an outlet for her to vent and talk to when she felt lonely. But as time went on, Anne and Peter began spending significant time together, and Anne started to develop romantic feelings for him.
Keep reading to learn about Anne and Peter’s relationship and how it developed throughout her diary.
The Burgeoning Romance of Anne and Peter
As her loneliness grew, Anne decided to confide in Peter van Daan. Though initially, he was an outlet for Anne to vent to, she began to take an actual liking to him. She described the warm feeling she got looking into his eyes and making him blush. Initially, she insisted that she wasn’t in love with him, but her affections grew the more time she spent with him.
Soon, Peter started to confide in Anne. She appreciated his honesty and was glad that someone trusted her. For example, after a fight with Dussel, he expressed his frustration at struggling to find the right words when talking to people and his jealousy at Anne’s ability to come up with quick responses. In addition to his frustrations, he also talked to Anne about his dreams and insecurities. He told her that he wanted to go to the Dutch East Indies to work and that he wished he weren’t Jewish because life seemed to be so much easier for non-Jewish people. He suffered from a serious inferiority complex and longed for affection.
As Anne and Peter started to spend significant time together, Anne started to develop romantic feelings for him. She talked about him constantly and was upset on days they didn’t speak much. She tried to find excuses to go to his room to talk and began referring to Peter as “him” in her diary. Even his smallest actions had a profound impact on her. For example, she once said that she started glowing after he merely looked at her. She thought about him all of the time and began to dream about him.
These feelings also brought some insecurity. These insecurities included:
- Questioning if he cared about her if he didn’t talk to her much that day
- Wondering if Margot had feelings for Peter and vice versa
- Fearing he was going to stop talking to her one day
Anne and Peter: Falling in Love
Peter appreciated Anne’s company. His parents would fight with one another constantly, and these fights had a negative effect on Peter. He was frustrated with his parents’ constant bickering. He wanted to be close with his parents, but he didn’t feel like he could trust them. He expressed his feelings to Anne. She appreciated his willingness to share and suggested he talk to Otto for guidance. She felt responsible for his well-being and wanted to protect him from his parents’ quarrels.
He said that her support and optimism helped him when he was struggling. While he did confess that she annoyed him when they first went into hiding, he now enjoyed her company and looked forward to their talks. They talked about their shared distrust of their parents and the ways in which they hid their true emotions from the other residents. Where he would stay silent in uncomfortable situations, she would talk back or use sarcasm.
Her affections for Peter only continued to grow as he opened up to her. She finally admitted to herself that she was in love with Peter and continued to pine for his affection. She wanted him to think about her as much as she thought about him, but she feared that she’d push him away if she spent too much time with him.
Her insecurities manifested themselves in dreams in which he’d tell her that he didn’t care about her. These insecurities fueled Anne’s anxiety and sadness. She’d try to hide it around other people, but she felt conflicted and nervous about her relationship with Peter. She was in love with him and wanted to be more than just good friends. She even said that she could see herself marrying him in the future.
Eventually, Peter and Anne became close enough to openly discuss taboo topics such as sex. Anne admitted that she and Margot hadn’t been told much about sex. Peter, on the other hand, knew quite a bit. He told Anne about contraceptives and the process of puberty for boys. Anne never thought that she could have these conversations with someone of the opposite sex.
As Anne and Peter grew closer, her sister Margot started to become jealous of their relationship. In a letter, Margot explained that she was upset that she didn’t have a person that she could talk to in the way that Peter and Anne could talk to one another. While she was glad that Anne had found someone to talk to, Margot felt lonely and left out. Anne felt sorry for her sister and assured her that she cared about her. She wanted to be there for Margot and told her to come to her with anything she’d want to discuss.
Near the end of March, the adults started commenting on the relationship between Anne and Peter. Peter’s parents, the van Daans, nicknamed Peter’s room “Anne’s second home” and made jokes about an Annex wedding. Edith and Otto worried about Anne going into Peter’s room alone. This concern led Edith to forbid Anne from going into his room to talk because she was afraid that they would act inappropriately. Anne wasn’t willing to give up on Peter easily, and she tried to figure out a way to get around her mother’s restrictions.
Getting Closer to Peter
As time went on, Anne and Peter became closer both emotionally and physically. One day, Anne and Peter shared a kiss and cuddled in the attic. Anne was exhilarated by the development in their relationship. However, she wondered what her parents would think and worried about the scandal that her actions could cause.
As their physical relationship continued to develop, Anne became more comfortable talking to Peter about taboo topics such as female anatomy. She told him about a woman’s breasts and sexual organs. Peter hadn’t known much about a woman’s body and appreciated the lesson.
Though they grew closer every day, Anne still felt insecure about Peter’s feelings towards her. She felt as though she always had to chase after him, but she wanted to be desired and pursued. This insecurity made her feel as though she was two different people: one who was confident and brash, and another who was gentle and wanted love. Fortunately, Peter was also feeling tender and enjoyed his time with Anne.
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Here's what you'll find in our full The Diary of a Young Girl summary:
- What Nazi occupation looked like from the perspective of a young Jewish girl
- How Anne Frank had some normal teenage experiences while in hiding
- How the hidden residents coped with the stress