Anne Frank Huis – Andrew Motion
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The poem Anne Frank Huis refers to Anneliese Marie who was born in 1929 in Frankfurt to Jewish parents. After the Nazi came to power in Germany Adolf Hitler became the chancellor and the Frank family fled to Amsterdam. The Nazis occupied in Netherlands in 1942 and Franks went into hiding. The poem reminds us one of the three years of fear and suspense undergone by Anne Frank and the family who took shelter in a narrow space in an upstairs building.
Andrew Motion in his poem tries his best to make the reader feels the actual tense, fear and suspicion towards Anne’s situation.
The first stanza begins with “Even now” signifies the narrator’s sense of amazement that he is in Amsterdam visiting Anne Frank’s house. He is unbelievable whether he is actually at Frank’s house. The remainder of the first line indicates that 30 years have passed since Anne Frank’s death, but still the world grieves for her. Next little by little the poet indicates and stresses the ferocity that we all feel at the tragedy of the Holocaust. The “very place” stresses once more exactly where the narrator is. The use of the words “whoever comes” highlights that anyone can visit this house now as there are no Nazis anymore.
The use of “these narrow stairs” hints at the oppressive nature of this building. It emphasizes that the family was hidden away, out of sight. The use of “climb” and “narrow” also gives us an idea of the discomfort and effort that the narrator is going through as he visits this house and it hints at the strong emotions he is feeling. The last line of the first stanza suggests the dark atmosphere and the people’s inability to help the family.
The second stanza carries the sense of guilt towards the inability to help. The clock outside from the church is described as “the Westerkerk repeats itself”. The clock is still keeping time the same way it did fifty years ago – it is still there giving some hope. Furthermore the simile in this line highlights that the clock would have been a constant reminder to Anne Frank and her family of the time they spent in hiding.
The third stanza suggests the length of time that the Frank family spent in this house and that they couldn’t raise their voices or share their company with anyone. Sadness comes through here as the Frank family quite clearly could not enjoy an ordinary life. The phrase “and plotting” describes what the Frank family were doing; hoping of a chance of escape. And “day-by-day” suggests the repetition of the action. The family was longing for the “yellow chalk” line to get nearer and nearer before the Nazis discovered their hiding place. Sadness is evident at this point of the poem as it becomes clear that even within this extreme experience. And there was no hope for any kind of “ordinary” experience for Anne Frank.
The forth stanza too carries the same idea. Anne is presented as a young teenager yearning for life and her interests are not different from an ordinary modern girl. Here “as pictures of her family” suggests an extreme sadness to the poem. These people in the photographs might have been killed in concentration camps during the Nazi time. Furthermore the stanza adds sadness of this normal teenager not having any chance of a ‘normal’ life due to the Nazi occupation.
The last stanza brings a huge contrast with the first four stanzas. With the phrase “Like my own;” the poet contrasts his own life and the life of the readers and all, with the life led by Franks. The poet emphasizes the idea that how lucky we all are to live independently. He brings out a tranquil pleasant scene that the Franks couldn’t even imagine at that time. The alliteration of “c”, in “come clear of bridges”, highlights the freeness of the barge. This contrasts with the imprisonment of the Frank family who were never to “come clear” of anything except under the arrest of Nazi guards. The “silent” barge adds a relaxing romantic image yet it is also a reminder of the silence that the Frank family had to keep while they were in hiding. It could also be argued that the barge is silent in respect and mourning over what happened here in Amsterdam to the Frank family.
Throughout this final stanza the words generally have softer sounds – “drift”, “watch”, “barge”, “bridges” – which again contrasts with the sibilant words and the harsh images evident in the rest of the poem. And all those images highly contrast the tension of Anne Frank’s life with the freedom brought about by the democratic forces. The poem ends with the idea that Anne was denied the freedom enjoyed with the theme of independence, lack of freedom and sadness