The book, Bridget Jones’s Diary has been compared to Pride and Prejudice. How far is this true? To what extent do the film versions of Bridget Jones’s Diary and Pride and Prejudice reinforce this notion?
I have chosen to work with option six for this essay. I have selected this subject because I would like to study these two books closer, to see if it is fair to compare them. I will deal with the similarities and the dissimilarities in the texts and films. Then I will deal specifically with aspects in the film versions that reinforce these notions. Finally I will sum up my arguments and conclution.
In comparing these two texts, I will first deal with the ideal for a successful life, to day and in Jane Austen’s time. In her time the aim for a woman was not to get a professionale career. Women, at any rate in the middelclass and in prosperous families, did not get an education and work, as today’s womens. At that time women’s education was to learn to dance, play the piano, sing and converse. With that, their “career” was to get married to a good husband. And a good husband, meant a well off man. This was the only way a woman could guarantee a life without any economic worries. If she did not get married, her father and after that her brother had to provide for her. If she did not have a brother, she had to live off what she inherited from her father. And that was often not so much. Thus one can understand the importance of marriage. It was the reality of the time, and a young woman’s dream.
In today’s society a woman can usually provide for herself, since the majority has got an education and a job. In this way they are not economically dependent on a husband. It is no longer a woman’s “career” to get married. Still, it is of importance to get a husband. Marriage is still an ideal, and can thus be said to be important to many womens. Today, as at that time, most of young womens dream about a good marriage.
Having a career is all well and good, but not if it is at the expense of finding Mr. Right. All warning implicitly that the heady days of youth, glamour and social freedom are all too soon replacedby the lengthy twilight of terminal single status. (Wheleman, 2000, p. 136)
In Pride and Prejudice and Bridget Jones’s Diary, these ideals are a theme. The aim for Elizabeth and Bridget is to find a good man. And in their story of finding Mr. Right there are similarities in the action and the characters. I will start with the character who distinguishes themself most, Mark Darcy and Mr. Darcy
Darcy’s character in both Pride and Prejudice and Bridet Jones’s Diary is similar. In the last mentioned the first feeling of likeness of this book and Pride and Prjudice comes when the name Darcy appears. First of all the name is the same, but as we get to know the character we can also recognize traits of character. Both of them are highly respected barristers. The female characters’ first impression of Darcy in both books is that he is arrogant, aloof and unapproachable. And it is not without reason. In Pride and Prejudice Elizabeth overhears a conversation between Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley when he talks about her at the first party:
“Which do you mean?” Mr. Darcy asked and turned round. He looked for a moment at Elizabeth, till catching her eye, he withdrew his own and said: “Well, she is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me” (....) Elizabeth remained with no very cordial feelings towards him. (Stolthet og Fordom, p 15)
In this book Mr. Darcy is a newcomer, and there are several people who comprehend him this way:
The first part of the night he was admired by everybody, until the enthusiasm for him started to cool off because one thought he had an arrogant and offensive being. It seemed that he fel that he was high above the assembly and he did not show any sign of enjoyment. (Stolthet og Fordom, p.14)
In Bridget Jones’s Diary Mark Darcy’s behaviour to Bridget at their first meeting is not propitious. When Una tries to make Mark take Bridget’s phone number, so they can meet, this happens:
”I’m sure Bridget’s life in London is quite full enough already, Mrs Alconbury”, he said. Humph. It’s not that I wanted him to take my phone number or anything, but I didn’t want him to make it perfectly obvious to everyone that he didn’t want to. (Bridget Jones’s Diary, p16)
In the film version he does the same as Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice; he disparages Bridet within her earshot.
The difference from Pride and Prejudice is that in this book Bridget is the only one who dislikes Mark. What the rest of the party thinks of him the reader does not get to know. This is because of the angle of the book. We see everything through Bridget’s eyes and she is the one who tells the story. In Pride and Prejudice there is a 3. person narrator who tells the story. Besides in Bridget Jones’s Diary he is not a newcommer, he is at a party with friends of his parents. We do not experience his aloofness and unapproachability at the party, as we do in Pride and Prejudice.
The first impression of Darcy in both books is not the best, seen from the female characters’ point of view. Both of them misunderstand him. And he is easily misunderstood because of his beaviour. I will add that in the film versions of the books we see much more of his feelings. By physically seeing the character; you can see expressions and bodylanguage. Both books are about first impressions, and what they can entail. Pride and Prejudice was also originally entitled First Impressions:
The emphasis on point of view is, of course, complemented by the novel’s own pervasive concern with the power of appearances and the extent to which they are always partial and perhaps misleading – not for nothing was it originally entitled First Imressions. (Hopkins, 2001, p112)
The Darcy character is similar, and some of his actions are comparable. He is the eventual saviour|of the family in both books. In Bridget Jones’s Diary he saves her mother from jail and shame, when she risks jail because of Julio’s swindling. In Pride and Prejudice he saves Lydia, Elizabeth’s sister, from shame by forcing a marriage between her and Wickham.
The difference between these two creations is that Mr. Darcy changes in Pride and Prejudice. He realizes that his behaviour towards Elizabeth has been supercillious. He excuses himself to her, and they have a conversation and resolve all misunderstanings when they meet at Pemberly. This meeting can be compared to when Anne meets Wentworth in Bath, in Presuasion. Then the silence breaks, and they have a conversation which resolves the situation for them both. This shows that when Austen’s characters deside speak their feelings, the ending is going to be happy. Bridget’s Mark Darcy does not change, but he tells her that he likes her just the way she is, and that leads to Bridget’s misunderstandings being clared up. When they tell eachother their feelings, the ending is happy.
In Pride and Prejudice we meet Wickham. The first impression of him is that is Mr. Right. He is handsome, charming and easy to speak with. He seems to be too good to be true. Elizabeth develops a good relationship with him, and she finds him attrective.
(...) She had dressed particulary carefully for the ball and was in a wonderful mood – quite sure that she would make a conquest this evening. (Stolthet og fordom, p.77)
Wickham also shows interest in her:
Wickham and another officer accompanied the sisters back to Longbourn and on the way he was almost exclusively engaged to her. (Elizabeth) (Stolthet og Fordom, p 99)
In Bridget Jones’s Diary we find the parallel to Wickham in Daniel Cleaver. He is handsome, out- going, charming and popular among the women, as Wickham. These two characters have a striking similarity, and do parallel actions in relation to the heroine and the hero. Daniel claims that Mark has had a relationship with his former fiancee, while the truth is that it was Daniel who had a relationship with Mark’s former wife. Wickham claims that Mr. Darcy has not fulfilled old Mr. Darcy’s wish, and given Wickham the living as a priest. The truth is that Wickham relinguished that, and claimed a legacy of money instead an education in law. And he never did study law. In both cases the heroine belives in Wickham/Cleaver and this leads to sympathy for Wickham /Daniel, and more dislike of Darcy.
However, it shows that in both cases Wickham /Cleaver is too good to be true. Both of them have a relationship with another woman, and hurt the heroines’ feelings. Both of them are womanisers, and not good marriage prospects. The difference between Wickham and Cleaver is that Wickham marries Elizabeth’s sister, whereas Daniel does not merry anyone. The relationships between Bridget and Daniel, and Elizabeth and Wickham are also quite different. Bridget and Daniel have a love affair, which is sexual. This would have been unthinkable in Elizabeth’s time. In Bridget Jones’s Diary the action between Bridget and Daniel happened at the office, at the workplace. The action in Pride and Prejudice is not in a workplace, but mostly at balls and in people’s homes. It was there that people meet. Both of the heroines experience unsuccessful love, and end up with the least likely of them all: Darcy.
When it comes to the heroines, Bridget and Elizabeth, I do not think these characters are very similar. Bridget is a character you want to laugh at, because of all her attempts at doing things correct. Bad luck pursues her, and makes comic situations for the reader/ audience. In Bridget Jones’s Diary the humour is comic, while in Pride and Preudice it is ironc. Bridget is insecure about herself and acts many different roles in her life; with Daniel she is sexy, a serious career woman at the job inteviews and she wants then to be the perfect couple on the mini break. Bridget also worries about slimming, and wants to have the looks of women in magazines. Because of this I think many women identify with Bridget. Bridget Jones is engaging because she is flawed, and that is probably why Bridget Jones’s Diary has become so popular. A female audience recognise themeselves in Bridget.
Elizabeth is not a character I laugh at, in the same way I do with Bridget. Elizabeth is more confident than Bridget. She is self – contained as is Elinor in Sense and Sensibility and does not play different roles. Maybe she is a character the audience wanted in the 19th century, and which they could identify with. Or maybe the audience at the time wanted to read about someone they could look up to.
There are also several other aspects one can say are parallel in these two creations. Both of the mothers behave foolishly, and they are eager to get their daughters married. If the coming –son - in law has a fortune and a good income, it is a distinct advantage:
I don’t know why she didn’t just come out with it and say, ‘darling, do shag mark darcy over the Turkey curry, won’t you? He’s very rich’ (Bridget Jones’s Diary, p.12)
Bachelor, dear! Bachelor and with great fortune – four or five thousand pound a year! What good luck for our daughters! (Stolthet og Fordom, p. 8)
(...) The only thing she cared about, was to marry her daughters (. 9)
Both of the mothers have a relationship with their husbands which could have been better. In Pride and Prejudice Mrs. Bennet is a plaintive hypochondriac, who Mr. Bennet does not spend much time with. He often locks himself in the libary, to escape from her, to get some peace and quiet. The relationship between the parents in Bridget Jones’s Diary has some similarities, but it is rather different. Here it is the mother who wants to escape from the father, and she finds herself a new man.
Mr. Bennet is somewhat mean to his wife, and makes jokes at her expense. His character underlines her foolishness. I think this is his way of bearing life with her. On the other hand, we feel sorry for Mr. Jones, who is vulnerable. He seeks support and advice from Bridget in bad times. Both fathers use their daughtes as interlocutors, for different reasons. Mr. Bennet likes to talk with Elizabeth, because he thinks she is the only woman in the house who is sensible. Both Mr. Bennet and Mr. Jones have a good relationship with their daughters, but are reserved when it comes to marriage and men.
I also want to campare Bridget’s friend, Jude, to Elizabeth’s sister Jane. Both of these characters have an unstable relationship with a man, and get hurt by him, Jane by Mr. Bingley and Jude by Vile Richard. Both heroines get angry because their friend/sister gets hurt. The difference is that Mr. Bingley hurts Jane’s feelings because Mr. Darcy has persuaded him to abandon her. In Bridget Jones’s Diary Mark Darcy has nothing to do with Vile Richard, or with the relationship between him and Jude. The reader does not get to know why Vile Richard behaves like this.
The film version of Bridget Jones’s Diary reinforces the notion that these two creations can be compared. First of all there is the use of Colin Firth in both productions as Darcy. It is almost as if the 200 year old Darcy has returned in Bridget Jones’s Diary. Because they use him for this character, and because he act the role very much like in Pride and Prejudice, you immediately associate with the character in Pride and Prejudice.
The scene where Mark Darcy disparages Bridget in her earshot is added to the film version. It is not in the book. This happens to Elizabeth, both in the book and in the film. The addition of this scene reinforces the similarity.
The name Pemberly is the name of Mr. Darcy’s property in Pride and Prejudice. In Bridget Jones’s Diary Bridget works at Pemberly Press. This is not mentioned in the book, but in the film. Additionally in the film they show Mark Darcy’s parents house. In my opinion, the house is reminiscent me of Pemberly in Pride and Prejudice, both externally and internally. Inside it is fitted out in an 18th century style.
After I have studied these two creations I have come to the following conclution; I think these two books/films have enough in common to justify comparing. Each of them builds on the notion of a “Cinderella- story”, where the heroine, who is an ordinary girl, wins the rich and handsome hero. While there are differences which prevert Bridget Jones’s Diary from being merely a copy or “modern version” of Pride and Prejudice, they both build on the same central notions and plot. In the film version of Bridget Jones’s the producer has made certain changes, and these changes reinforce the notion of similarities refered to in the title of this essay.
- Austen, J.(1997): Stolthet og Fordom ( Pride and Prejudice). 4.ed. Oslo, Norway: Messels Forlag (all quotes from this book, is my translation)
- Fielding, H.(1996): Bridget Jones’s Diary. London: Pan Macmillian Ltd
- Hopkins, L.(2001): Mr. Darcy’s Body: Privileging The Female Gaze’ in Troost, L & Greenfield, S(eds) Jane Austen in Hollywood. Lexington: University of Kentucky
- Whelehan, I. (2000): Overloaded: Popular Culture And The Future of Feminism. London: The Women’s Press.