Growing up in a wartime environment affects the identities, confidence and coming of age process for many young adults. For Jeanne Wakatsuki-Houston, World War II had a negative impact on Jeanne’s confidence and appreciation of her Japanese heritage. For Anne Frank, World War II precipitates Anne’s precious maturity and coming of age process. World War II consequently forces Anne to grow up and mature much sooner than expected. Both girls’ identities are also affected and they struggle to find who they are. These young teenagers, at the height of the war, were at a very important and delicate part of their lives. Anne Frank and Jeanne Wakatsuki-Houston were each affected greatly by the war, but in different ways and in different scenarios.
Jeanne Wakatsuki-Houston often felt very unaccepted and self-conscious about her race. During and after World War II, there was a very negative and cruel attitude towards Japanese-Americans. Although Jeanne was too young to completely understand the reasons for her family’s internment, on perhaps a subconscious level, it greatly affects how Jeanne grows up and the way she views her heritage. When she begins to try various activities offered in her internment camp, she shies away from Japanese related hobbies. Instead, she turns to all-American things such as baton twirling, in hopes of becoming accepted.
Throughout her adolescence, Jeanne was ashamed of her heritage. At Jeanne’s scholarship award dinner, her father and mother humiliate her, by creating a palpable diversity between the Wakatsukis and the other families. “He was unforgivably a foreigner then, foreign to them, foreign to me, foreign to everyone, foreign to everyone but Mama, who sat next to him smiling, with pleased modesty. Twelve years old at the time, I wanted to scream. I wanted to slide out of sign under the table and dissolve.” (168) Through this quote, Jeanne shares with the reader her utter mortification from her father’s traditional bow. Jeanne spends most of her adolescence trying to distance herself from her Japanese side in attempts to become accepted. Jeanne is very embarrassed because when her father bows, Jeanne is immediately singled out as different and strange. At this time in Jeanne’s young life, Jeanne is not confident enough or self-assured of who she is. Jeanne does not necessarily wish she is not Japanese, but that she is accepted for who she is.
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Jeanne struggles with who she is as well as her personal identity. On Jeanne’s coronation night as carnival queen, Jeanne is very self-conscious and regretful about her humble dress. The other girls are wearing strapless gowns, while Jeanne chose a frilly, concealing dress. As Jeanne completes her processional walk, she begins to doubt herself. “It wasn’t the girl in this old-fashioned dress they had voted for. But if not her, who had they voted for? Somebody I wanted to be. And wasn’t. Who was I then?” (181-182) Jeanne is very confused concerning who she is and as well as what she has become. Jeanne comes to the realization that while trying to become accepted, she loses herself and her identity. Jeanne tries to quiet her Japanese side in attempts to please her peers, but she recognizes that she is unhappy with the result.
Growing up, Anne Frank struggles with her identity as well as figuring out who she is and what type of person she wishes to become. Anne Frank was confined to the Secret Annexe for the last two years of her life. In the Secret Annexe, Anne confided her many conflicting thoughts and changing feelings in her diary. Anne often writes of how she wishes the other members in the Annexe would take her seriously, and discontinue the childish manner in which they condemn her to. Anne enters the Annexe at the age of thirteen and is viewed as a foolish, comical girl. By the age of fifteen, Anne’s character and identity have transformed in to a young woman’s.
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Anne was always chided and treated like a girl when she arrives at the Annexe. Anne was not considered to be one with thoughts and opinions of importance. Anne cared only about shallow things such as boys, appearance, and materialistic things. Anne also came off as somewhat conceited and rambunctious. However, as Anne matures, Anne slowly reveals to the reader her innermost conflicts and struggles about her identity and personality. “Suddenly the everyday Anne slipped away and the second Anne took her place. The second Anne, who’s never overconfident or amusing, but wants only to love and be gentle.” (Friday, April 28, 1944) She often mentions the two sides of her. Anne’s exterior side is seemingly arrogant and entertaining. Anne’s interior, more vulnerable side is softer, more reserved and tender. Anne is describing how she feels one time when she is with Peter Van Daan.
Anne frequently wishes she could reveal her second side to the world, but she is fearful of how others would react. “I’m afraid they’ll mock me, think I’m ridiculous and sentimental and not take me seriously.” (Tuesday, August 1, 1944) This quote really demonstrates Anne’s struggle with her identity. Anne constantly puts on a show so that she may hide her more vulnerable side. Anne finds it hard to open up to the people in the Annexe, the same people who mocked her and never took her seriously. For those long two years in confinement, Anne is in a very different situation than most young girls her age. Anne is forced to remain with her family and the Van Daans every second, every minute, of every day. She cannot escape to her friend’s house, or go to her own room. These side effects heavily impact Anne’s identity and how she comes to be who she is.
For these two young women, growing up in a wartime environment greatly affects their identity, and who as well as how they come to be who they are. Because of World War II, Anne Frank and Jeanne Wakatsuki come of age under different and unusual circumstances. They grow up very differently than most girls their age. Jeanne and Anne are each affected differently, given their different circumstances. Anne feels boarded up within herself, struggling to come through with her true identity. Jeanne also covers up her identity and attempts to replace it with an alternative to be accepted. Overall growing up in a wartime environment has a negative impact on young adults, of all races, ages, and classes.
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