When I began reading Bridget Jones’s Diary (1996) by Helen Fielding and number 68 the BBC book list, I hated it. It is full of foul language, dirty references, and the seemingly pathetic life of an annoying heroine. I wanted to poke my eyeballs out rather than finish reading it, and I saw the movie years ago, so why read it? But I felt that I had to continue because of my goal of reading all of the books on the BBC list. (It turns out that lists can be limiting!)
But by the middle of the book, I was laughing and looking forward to more. Bridget grew on me, and her antics reminded me of some of the great comic women of television, including Lucille Ball. Bridget finds herself wearing a playboy bunny costume to a demure afternoon tea, accidentally making blue soup, obsessively counting her calories, and wanting to kill her mother. She’s constantly doing and saying ridiculous things in front of the man we know she will eventually fall for, Mark Darcy.
Yes, Bridget Jones’s Diary is a parody, in a roundabout way, of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It is a modern retelling of the love story that keeps the reader guessing as to when and how and if a romance will blossom. Will Mark turn out to be nice, underneath that gruff exterior (and the argyle sweater)? Will Bridget find out who she is and learn to accept herself enough to relax and be happy (and get the man)?
Well, the answer to all of those questions is yes, but the fun is in reading such a tale and waiting for it to happen. The anticipation is the best part. We all know what the end will be. It’s formulaic.
The novel is also a satire of modern life. Fielding expertly makes fun of feminism, traditional values, insecurity, housewives, single women, rich people, politics, workplaces, etc. etc. She makes fun of everybody and everything, so there’s no sense in being offended. All of these themes could be explored in terms of politics and ideology, but when it comes down to it, the book is really about loneliness. Bridget is lonely. Her jerky boss/boyfriend is lonely. Her married and pregnant friends are lonely. The older women in her mother’s circle are lonely. Nobody wants to be alone or left behind but all of them are in some way or another. This is the human condition.
Because we are all lonely, no matter our circumstances, it reminds me of the importance of serving others. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Those who are not looking for happiness are the most likely to find it, because those who are searching forget that the surest way to be happy is to seek happiness for others.” I think that’s why serving and loving others is so important. We all hear that the best way to forget yourself is to think about somebody else, and that’s true. It will make you forget about your own worries.
So, in the end I liked Bridget Jones’s Diary, although at first I wanted to hate it. I imagined myself ranking all of the BBC books and putting this one dead last, or writing a post about how awful and raucous and uncouth this book is. Then I started laughing. And I couldn’t stop.
You could say it was v.g.