Bridget Jones’s Diary

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Bridget Jones begins the year—and begins her diary—with a set of resolutions dedicated to reducing her alcohol and tobacco intake, reducing her weight, and developing inner poise and a “functional relationship with responsible adult.” This last resolution—as well as all the others, in fact—translates into finding a man. Her anxious search for a mate has prompted many critics to label BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY a post-feminist work, but in fact it is pre-feminist, in that it resembles nothing so much as early nineteenth century novels—in particular, Jane Austen’s PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (1813).

Like Elizabeth Bennet, Bridget is at first put off by her hero’s externals—in this case, Mark Darcy’s diamond patterned sweater and bumblebee socks. In Austen’s novel, the foolish heroine must first work her way through her prejudices about Darcy, as well as another unsuitable suitor, before finding true love. Fielding’s Bridget Jones follows much the same course.

Bridget, however, is clearly a product of the information age. On the lighter side, this means that she is a booster for the television game show BLIND DATE and takes as role models older, but still glamorous, women like the film star Susan Sarandon and publishing luminary Tina Brown. This kind of juxtaposition— Bridget’s confessions of her attraction to society’s glittering surface, followed by her darker commentary on its superficiality— is what makes Helen Fielding’s novel at once so amusing and so telling. Bridget may appraise herself and her foibles in comic terms, but she knows the score: “my reward, I know, will be to end up all alone, half-eaten by an Alsatian.” Like Elizabeth Bennet, she has reason to be concerned about her marriageability.

Despite its literary pedigree, BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY has managed to stir up considerable controversy among readers who have chosen to interpret it solely as social commentary. Yet Bridget clearly is a literary heroine for our time.

Sources for Further Study

Business Week. July 13, 1998, p. 27.

Library Journal. CXXIII, May 15, 1998, p. 114.

Los Angeles Times Book Review. September 27, 1998, p. 10.

Ms. IX, July, 1998, p. 91.

The New Republic. CCXIX, September 7, 1998, p. 36.

The New York Times Book Review. CIII, May 31, 1998, p. 31.

The New Yorker. LXXIV, August 3, 1998, p. 70.

Newsweek. CXXXI, May 4, 1998, p. 82.

Publishers Weekly. CCXLV, April 20, 1998, p. 42.

The Washington Post Book World. XXVIII, July 5, 1998, p. 4.