Diary: Definition, Examples & Meaning

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      The term Diary comes from Latin, diarium, itself derived from dies meaning ‘day’. Diary is a form of autobiographical writing. Written primarily for the writer’s use alone, the diary has a frankness that is unlike writing done for publication. Its ancient lineage is indicated by the existence of the term in. A diary is a record originally in handwritten format with discrete entries arranged by date reporting on what has happened over the course of a day or other period. A personal diary may include a person’s experiences, and/or thoughts or feelings, including comments on current events outside the writer’s direct experience. Someone who keeps a diary is known as a diarist.

      The diary form began to flower in the late Renaissance, when the importance of the individual began to be stressed. In addition to their revelation of the diarist’s personality, diaries have been of immense importance for the recording of social and political history. Journal d’un bourgeois de Paris, kept by an anonymous French priest from 1409 to 1431 and continued by another hand to 1449, for example, is invaluable to the historian of the reigns of Charles VI and Charles VII. Other examples of diaries with historical entries include Memorials of the English Affairs by the lawyer and parliamentarian Bulstrode Whitelocke (1605-75) and the diary of the French Marquis de Dangeau (1638-1720), which spans the years 1684 to his death. The greatest English diarists are John Evelyn and Samuel Papys, whose diary from January 1, 1660 to May 31, 1669, gives both an astonishingly frank picture of his foibles and frailties and a stunning picture of life in London, at the court and the theatre, in his own household, and in his Navy office.

      The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank details approximately two years of the life a Jewish teenager girl during World War II. During much of the time period covered by her journal, Anne and her family are in hiding in an attempt to escape Hitler’s anti-Jewish laws and genocidal desires. Anne’s diary ends abruptly in August, 1944. On that day, she and her family are taken into custody by the Germans and transported to concentration camps. Shortly after Anne gets her diary as a gift on her thirteenth birthday, her sister Margot gets call up orders by the German army. These call up orders force her Jewish family into hiding from Hitler and his men. Anne and her family are joined in the Secret Annex - a portion of Otto Frank’s office building - by the three members of the van Daan family and a dentist named Albert Dussel.

      Anne’s diary entries are written to a fictitious girl named Kitty whom Anne treats as her best friend. She initially writes mostly her thoughts, interactions, and occurrences that she believes might entertain her friend. In her March 29, 1944 entry Anne’s emphasis changes as she hears that Mr. Bolkestein, the cabinet minister, speaks of his desire to put together a collection of diaries and letters about the war. Anne starts detailing the news she gets about the war and the way the war is affecting them. She tells what they eat and what they talk about during their days in hiding. Anne spends most of her life in a terrible time when Jews were persecuted; yet, her belief in the goodness of people is amazing. She states several times in her journal, even when the family is in hiding from those who want to kill them, that she still believes that people are inherently good. Perhaps, it is the resiliency of Anne’s positive nature that is the most memorable theme in her writing. In addition to news o the war and everyday occurrences, Anne gives details about her relationship with her mother. She also writes about love and her desire to be a better person.

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