Bridget Jones's Diary
Helen Fielding, 1998
Here, for example, is Bridget's first impression* of Mark Darcy whom she meets at a New Year's Day party:
It struck me as pretty ridiculous to be called Mr. Darcy and to stand on your own looking snooty at a party. It's like being called Heathcliff and insisting on spending the entire evening in the garden, shouting "Cathy" and banging your head against a tree.
Talk about writing with a knowing nod and wink to your readers: we have to be in-the-know to get the double joke—on Austen's P & P and Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights. And then, of course, we're tickled with ourselves because we do get it. Cheeky, really cheeky.
The book is written as a diary with blow-by-blow, up-to-the-minute entries. It might well be a spoof on another famous novel, Samuel Richardson's Pamela, one of the earliest English novels, also in diary form. Henry Fielding (of Tom Jones fame) thought the heroine Pamela so self-absorbed and manipulative that he wrote a parody of it called Shamela—and that kicked off a very public row between these two literary giants. It took little Jane Austen to settle the issue at the heart of the dispute (in P & P).
I think Helen Fielding, a descendant of Henry Fielding—in kind, if not kin—knew exactly what she was doing by using a 1st-person diary approach. It's very funny stuff. And the movie's funny, too—especially with Colin Firth playing Mark Darcy: another nod and wink, this time to the BBC version of Pride & Prejudice.
See our Reading Guide for Bridget Jones's Diary.
* "First Impressions" was Austen's original title for Pride and Prejudice.
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