The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ Critical Essays

Sue Townsend


(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

A key word in the title The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ is “secret.” Adrian Mole reveals his secret thoughts and desires in his diary. In this way, major themes of adolescence unfold, observed not objectively by a third-person narrator but subjectively through the eyes and words of one of literature’s teenagers, in the tradition of Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, and Holden Caulfield. Adrian’s struggles, while occurring in a specific time, place, and culture, have universal appeal for adolescent readers and a humorous treatment of sometimes bleak themes that will be appreciated more fully as the reader grows older. This is a book that can be read again with pleasure at different stages of life.

A major coming-of-age theme is searching for, and finding, an identity of one’s own, separate from parents and family. Adrian’s decision to become an intellectual is the beginning of that search for identity. His criticism of his parents’ lifestyle and values is a universal symptom of adolescence. The class difference between Adrian’s family and Pandora’s family is well illustrated, not only by the fact that Pandora owns a pony while Adrian reports on unpaid utility bills and his father’s unemployment but also by the choice of summer vacation each family makes: Adrian’s family goes off to Scotland or Skegness, while Pandora vacations in Tunisia.

Separation and divorce, and the stress and pain that they cause to family life, are issues that, while no longer unusual...

(The entire section is 617 words.)