“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen and “Bridget Jones’s Diary” by Helen Fielding
- Pages: 25
- Word count: 6014
- Category: Pride and Prejudice Short Story
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For my wider reading assignment for GCSE, I have chosen the novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen as my pre-1914 novel and ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ by Helen Fielding as my post-1914 novel. The main focus of my comparison, will be ‘Women’s social depiction’ .
The reason for my choice of novels, relating to my topic, is fairly simple. Both novels have a heroine as the main subject, both are centred very much around this one heroine, and both go into great detail about the heroine and her state of mind in various points throughout each novel. This, of course, is necessary, as the subject of my comparisons will be the heroines, and how they are represented.
The novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is very well known, and is considered one of Jane Austen’s finest pieces of writing, a classic in every way. So when I chose this book, I had a fair idea of what to expect. Before hand, all I knew of this novel, was that it was a love story, with an unexpected twist. So going into the book, I had some fairly prejudiced notions, knowing that it was a romance story, I was expecting a drawn-out tale of ‘young love’ with plenty of angst and picturesque scenes.
Similarly, I also knew that ‘Bridget Jones’s diary’ was a romantic and humorous novel that also contained feminist themes. Judging from the genre, I thought that this book would contain lots of ‘lovey-dovey’ scenes, and plenty of cracks at men.
I knew that the main genre for both novels was romance, so I was expecting both to contain more or less the same plot with only minor adaptations to the story so that they could be called ‘original’. The whole ‘romantic’ genre is generally considered to be one aimed at women, and this opinion may be held partly responsible for the stereotyping of all women as being ‘hopelessly romantic’. This affected me greatly when I chose my topic and books, because I wanted to choose a topic that would introduce me to a relatively new genre (for me). When a reader picks up a book that is considered part of the ‘romantic’ genre, you develop certain expectations of the genre as a whole. The reader expects a ‘sappy’ plot line, a female lead character, and a happy ending. So when you come across a book that ‘breaks the mould’ so to speak, it is regarded as something special. This is why I chose ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’, as I knew that both are highly regarded.
Although both books are similar, the authors themselves are very different. Jane Austen was born on the 16th of December 1775 in a small village called Steventon near Basingstoke. She was the seventh child of the rector of the parish, and lived with her family in Steventon until they moved to Bath. Her father retired in 1801 and died soon after in 1805. Jane Austen died on the 18th of July 1817.
Knowing these basic facts it is already easy to see where Austen may have drawn inspiration from for her novel, ‘Pride and Prejudice’. In her novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’, she is writing about a large family very similar to hers. The heroine of her book is the fifth daughter of a family with very similar social standing to her own. Knowing of the circumstances and settings Jane Austen was in when she wrote the book makes it much easier to observe what may have influenced her in its writing. In all of her books, she is well known for giving her characters happy marriages, so it is already well established that she prefers to write of blissful romance and contented marriage. She is also said to have written ‘burlesques of popular romances’ as a child, which shows that romantic notions were heavily involved in her younger life, and this is probably why she writes so many romance novels.
If you look even closer at the sort of settings Jane Austen grew up in, it is very clear to see how she might have been such a fan of the romantic genre. At the time, women were only considered good for bearing children, and when a daughter is born to a family, their first concerns must concern her wedding off to an eligible bachelor. So with all the pressure on a girl to get married from her parents and family, it is only normal for her to think more and more of romance. Also, if you consider Jane Austen’s social standing, it would not have been thought that she could have married a man of ‘high standing’, so she may have read popular romance as a means of ‘escapism’ for her. This becomes quite clear, when she creates perfect marriages in every book, but especially in ‘Pride and Prejudice’, where she creates the perfect marriage that every girl dreamed of.
Helen Fielding however, grew up in much different circumstances. She was born in Yorkshire and later moved to London before going back and forth between London and Los Angeles. Obviously, living in such hectic surroundings has manifested in her writing, and it shines through especially in ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’. In ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’, her heroine is a ‘thirty-something’ woman who goes by the name of Bridget Jones (obviously). Living in a time when feminism is rife, I would have expected her book to be just about male-bashing, pointing out the ‘superiority’ of women etc, and basically aimed at telling men just what is wrong with them.
So, although the book does contain some feminist themes, it also deals with the more ‘classical’ romantic themes. It is clear that she was heavily influenced by the work of Jane Austen, particularly ‘Pride and Prejudice’ she even goes so far as to make several references to the book, and the plot is very similar, with only a few ‘twentieth century amendments’. The plot, in fact, is remarkably similar, so much so that it reads as a sort of ‘modern Pride and Prejudice’. Also, taking into consideration the time in which Helen Fielding has grown up, it is easy to see where she draws inspiration from for her novels. Many of the themes she has in her book are quite adult, and with the recent ‘lowering’ or morals that has come about in the late twentieth century, these themes are becoming more commonplace, just as Jane Austen was influenced by her surroundings, so was Helen Fielding.
‘Pride and Prejudice’ is set in rural England, in a similar time period to Jane Austen’s, with the same sorts of social rules and expectations. As such, it can seem like a very alien and austere world to many present day readers. There is a very strict formality placed on all but the most informal of meetings, and even then there are still procedures to be followed. However, there is much natural beauty in this world, and the occupants are far more determined to enjoy it than many people in the present. Leisurely tours around the country, simply to admire the scenery are far more commonplace, and people would go for early morning walks ‘amongst the lush and verdant greenery’ almost daily. Indoors and at social gatherings however, it is a very different story. There are formalities for everything, and if these formalities are not observed, then the person who disobeys them is ridiculed. It is a world that places much on social rank, and family connection. The people in this world are far more prejudiced, preferring only to mingle with those on similar standing to themselves, a very ‘imperialistic’ way of doing things.
The attitudes are very similar to those of early Victorian times, when the rich spent most of their time in the countryside, preferring to enjoy nature rather than live in the polluted and over-populated cities. Conduct and etiquette also have great importance placed on them, there are many rules laid down for conduct, especially that concerning love. If a man was interested in a woman, he would declare his ‘honourable intentions’ first to her family, then her, before courting her for a set period of time. Sometimes the woman had no choice in matters of marriage, if her family deemed her marriage to be beneficial, then they could apply great pressure on her to force her to marry. In the world of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ freedom to a set extent is frowned upon, and daughter are expected to be completely obedient to their parents.
Compared to this, the world of ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ is almost like anarchy. Set in the modern world, all ‘rules of courtship’ are gone. Instead, romance between two people comes about through a lot of second guessing and subtle dropping of hints, as is displayed in ‘Bridget’s’ attempts to ‘court’ her boss. Gone are all the formal rules, and social guidelines. In this new setting, women have a much greater degree of freedom, yet they still act like they are being oppressed, and it has given rise to the whole ‘feminist’ movement. Attitudes are very different, people are much more liberal when it comes to romance, with the causal ‘one night stand’ embodying this feeling, pretty much. Now, personal wealth plays a much more important role in determining social status, and having a ‘cool’ job plays a part in that too.
A lot more importance is also placed on physical appearance, with very few people having titles anymore, regality is no longer an issue. All in all, social attitudes are now far more lax, with a general demoralisation of just about everything compared to the world in ‘Pride and Prejudice’. Setting aside the change in social trends, the physical world itself is also very different from that in ‘Pride and Prejudice’. Now most rich people live in the very middle of the major cities, London being the largest and most popular. Most people have tended to leave the countryside behind, and it has generally been taken over for industrial purposes. There are still small villages in the countryside, but these are no longer considered to hold great importance, the main emphasis is now placed on the cities.
The two main characters in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ would have to be ‘Elizabeth Bennet’ and her future love ‘Mr.Darcy’. We first hear of Elizabeth in the opening passage, through the words of her father. We learn that a very rich and eligible bachelor has recently moved into Meryton (the place of residence for the Bennets) and that Mrs Bennet would like to introduce her daughters to this new bachelor in the hopes of making a future match. However, Mr Bennet would have no place in this, though he does add that he ‘must throw in a good word for my little Lizzy’. This already tells us that Elizabeth, or ‘Lizzy’ is very dear to her father, despite the fact that he gives her preference over his other five daughters, he also has an affectionate pet name for her. However, we soon learn that her mother has no such feeling for her, adding ‘I desire you do no such thing’ stating ‘Lizzy is not a bit better than the others’. But her father comments on his other daughters saying ‘they are all silly and ignorant like other girls’ but exempts Elizabeth by saying ‘Lizzy has something more of quickness’ implying that she is clever and quick-witted.
Such a recommendation does put the reader into a positive mind about Elizabeth. The novel draws you on, as the reader waits to see what this ‘wonderful child’ is like. We soon learn that Elizabeth is a considerate daughter, and holds good faith with everyone. We have an example of this when she says ‘Mrs Long has promised to introduce him’ but her family is far more sceptical, commenting on Mrs Long as a ‘selfish, hypocritical woman’, and add that they do not believe Mrs Long ever intended to do such a thing. We also learn that Elizabeth is not shy of social gatherings either, when she casually comments that her next ball is to be ‘to-morrow fortnight’. Further examples of Elizabeth’s good nature are provided at the ball, when, though Darcy offends her, she chooses not to retaliate, simply stating later ‘I could easily forgive his pride if he had not mortified mine’. To me, this line shows me that while Elizabeth is very forgiving, she also has her own pride, and will not simply stand to take offence.
The first impressions that the reader is given of Elizabeth Bennet are intended to show her in a very positive light, and help the reader identify with her. Mr.Darcy on the other hand, is intentionally shown in very bad light at the start. The first impression of Darcy shows him to be very eye-catching, stating that upon his entry he ‘drew the attention of the room’. He is described as a ‘fine, tall person with handsome features and noble mein’ in addition to having an income of ‘over ten thousand a year’ a large amount for the time. He is shown as a perfect gentleman at the start, soon earning the admiration of all present at the ball, and the reader. However, he soon is shown to be extremely ‘proud, to be above his company, and above being pleased’. He is shown to have the kind of manner that is pleasurable to detest. His arrogance is further accentuated by his cruel remarks on the company present, stating he would not dance with any of the local girls, claiming he would find it a ‘punishment’ for him to do so. He also insults Elizabeth, a character whom the reader has come to like and identify with. So when Darcy makes remarks about her, saying ‘she is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me’ the reader begins to develop a loathing for Darcy and his arrogant demeanour.
In ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’, there is only one main character which is, of course, Bridget herself. The novel begins with a look at her New Year’s resolutions, which involve promises to herself to ‘stop smoking’ and ‘Drink no more than fourteen alcohol units a week’. These two resolutions already give the reader a pretty strong impression of the kind of person Bridget is, especially as she has to mention these items twice on her list of resolutions. Other resolutions also include ‘Form functional relationship with responsible adult’ and that she must not ‘obsess about Daniel Cleaver as pathetic to have crush on boss’.
From this the reader learns that Bridget has some pretty big problems! She has a ‘crush’ on her boss, has to keep reminding herself to stop smoking and drinking too much, and she is constantly trying to find a ‘responsible adult’. For me, I see Bridget as part of the ‘self-improvement’ type of people, especially when she adds that she must ‘give proportion of earnings to charity’ and ‘go to gym three times a week not merely to buy sandwich’. The book begins with Bridget’s diary for the first of January, where she starts with a list of everything she has consumed, how many cigarettes she has had, and how much she weighs. We can already tell that Bridget is not going to keep to her self made ‘resolutions’ as she claims ‘alcohol units 14 (but effectively covers 2 days as 4 hours of party was New Year’s Day). Bridget is introduced to the reader in this first diary entry as being quite irresponsible, she has problems with keeping her own promises, and tends to ‘binge’ on cigarettes and drink.
In ‘Pride and Prejudice’ Elizabeth is presented to the reader as a kind, caring, thoughtful and intelligent young woman. Jane Austen always writes to put her in the best possible light, and always uses positive words about her. For example, when she learns that her sister, Jane has become ill at a friend’s house, Elizabeth insists on walking through three miles of wet, damp countryside to reach her sister, for she says ‘the distance is nothing to one who has the motive’ which makes me believe that she is very strong willed. When she does reach her sister, she cares nothing for her appearance, something, which would have shocked many early readers, and instead asks straight away to see her sister. She is also very modest in taking praise, claiming ‘I do not deserve such attention’. In one scene, where her mother begins to talk in quite an offensive manner about Darcy in front of a gathering, we see that, although she does not like Darcy, Elizabeth still respects him and tries ‘in vain to restrain her mother’ with ‘gentle words of caution’. In all the scenes with Elizabeth, the reader is always meant to respond positively to her.
Jane Austen achieves this by making sure that Elizabeth is described using soft toned words like ‘elegant’ and ‘gracefully’ and by giving her a very positive attitude. She also builds on Elizabeth’s character through the words of other characters in the book. Her sisters comment they have never heard her ‘speak ill of another person’ in her whole life. Even her casual acquaintances say she is ‘quite the most talented girl… I have met’. We are also made to sympathise with her, through her problems with Darcy. It begins when he insults her, and this is designed to make the reader feel that bit closer to Elizabeth, as we distance ourselves from Darcy. Every aspect of Elizabeth Bennet is written to make her a very pleasant character to read about. Descriptive words are chosen with care when describing her, soft tones and elegant words are used, which is designed to make Elizabeth seem more like the words used. Situations that she is placed in are also geared to have similar effect, when she is criticised by other characters, the reader feels closer to Elizabeth, and distances him/herself from the protagonist.
On the other hand, Bridget Jones is shown to be a completely different person. She is portrayed as a heavy smoker (only when she is depressed… which is quite often), and she drinks a lot. We also see that she finds it hard to keep promises and is quite irresponsible. The first thing in the novel, is Bridget’s list of New Year Resolutions, but already by her first diary entry she has already broken some of her resolutions, by drinking her ‘weekly allowance of 14 alcohol units’ in one day, but makes the excuse that it is alright because four hours of her drinking ‘binge’ was on a different day. The reader also learns that Bridget is incredibly sarcastic, but only in her mind. When she is speaking to her mother over the phone, she begins thinking to herself that her mother is being incredibly obvious that she wants Bridget and a man called Mark Darcy to get together at ‘Una Alconberry’s Turkey Curry Buffet’, and halfway through this conversation, Bridget ends up thinking ‘why doesn’t she just say “Do shag Mark Darcy dear, he is awfully rich”‘.
While Bridget is shown as a very reserved person when talking to others, when she writes in her diary, she has no problems expressing what she was thinking. The general impression that we have of Bridget, is of a woman with quite a hectic lifestyle. Around a third of the way through the book, she leaves her current job because she cannot stand her boss anymore, which does show me that she will not simply put up with people she does not have to. I found that Bridget is occasionally quite depressed, especially when she is concerned with love. But with that aside, she tends to lead an over-active life, and I see her as a typical example of ‘pop-culture’ the kind of person who always tries to make vain improvements to herself, and her ‘soul’. The reader does feel sorry for Bridget however, especially considering her incredible misfortune, and incredibly smothering mother. Helen Fielding also writes in a very personal style to make Bridget more endearing to the reader, and some of the situations that Bridget ends up in (when she shows up for a formal party dressed as a playboy bunny) are written with plenty of strong words like ‘dismally’ and ‘euphoric’ to the extent that the reader begins to feel the embarrassment that Bridget feels.
Although both books have a similar plot, the authors themselves use very different techniques. In ‘Pride and Prejudice’, Jane Austen writes in a very formal manner, exchanges between characters rarely flow with emotional words, and descriptions are very regulated. Jane Austen writes in a very linear way, she involves no scenes in the past, nor anything else overly distracting from the main story, which I think, helps it to run its course far more smoothly. The way that Austen has structured this book means that each topic leads to another relevant topic, which helps to make the novel progress so much more smoothly.
Austen writes the book in a third person perspective. This helps to achieve a feeling of greater knowledge, the reader becomes aware of more than just what one character sees. Austen uses this to provoke emotional responses in the reader, it works especially well when she has other characters criticising Elizabeth ‘behind her back’ this provokes a strong sense of dislike for the character being judgmental. The use of third person in this book works better than if Austen had used first person, with third person she is better able to impart a feeling of greater knowledge and can give far more accurate descriptions.
In ‘Pride and Prejudice’ there is not a large amount of emphasis on setting, the book is more concentrated on building character. As such, the dialogue used in the book plays a large part in contributing to this. The reader can only determine so much through a description of the character, but when you closely examine the way that character associates with others, the reader can find out ore about the character. As the novel was written in 1813, the language used is very formal, and some readers may have found difficulty in understanding everything that was said. However, the use of formal language builds a well-educated image for all the characters in the book for example ‘you are charmingly group’d and appear to uncommon advantage’ is a typical line of the main character, Elizabeth Bennet.
Austen uses this kind of language a lot more for her dialogue, to make the heroine of her novel appear well educated and cultured. On the occasion when she provides an introductory description for a character she uses words carefully chosen to suit the character’s personality. When first introducing Darcy, he is said to be ‘of noble mein’ which indicates to me that he possesses noble features, suggesting he is good looking, but that he is also proud. In her use of dialogue, Austen is equally skilled, when she writes dialogue for Elizabeth, she tends to select words that reflect her nature, ‘what you ask … is no sacrifice on my side’ is another comment typical of Elizabeth, and helps to build on her image of a kind, self-sacrificing person’.
Austen’s use of symbolism is hidden deep within her subtext, and the casual reader would probably not even notice it consciously, but if the reader looks for it, it is there. Austin mainly uses the situations in her book to parallel ones from her time, she also writes in a manner that ridicules some of the stricter formal proceedings of her time. Most of Austen’s symbolism comes at the end of the book when most of the conflicts and social disharmony is resolved. Lady Catherine is meant to represent the older generation of nobility, with their resistance to change in the ways of society, so when her plans are ‘thwarted’ as it were, Austen uses this to represent an inevitable change in the ways of society to the reader. Austen uses characters to represent different sections of society, and the attitude of that person, and what befalls them represents Austen’s own feelings towards that particular section of society.
In ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’, the text is structured in a straight forward manner. Because it is written in diary form, all events are recorded in the past. This achieves a sense of premonition in the reader, because each entry usually starts with something on the lines of ‘Ugh. Wish I were dead.’ Which leads the reader on to wonder what could make Bridget think in this way.
‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ is written in the first person perspective in the past tense. This makes the reader feel more knowledgeable about Bridget and her situation, because whatever she writes, we know that it has already passed and been resolved. The use of first person makes the reader feel closer to Bridget, as we experience things through her eyes, and so the first person really helps the reader to identify with her. The use of past tense is useful for leading the reader on, whenever Bridget starts a diary entry with ‘The greatest thing ever has happened to me’ or a sombre ‘My life is over’, the reader wishes to know what has happened and so keeps on reading.
Helen Fielding uses plenty of ‘blunt’ descriptions ie; she does not restrict what Brdiget happens to write in her diary, for example ‘He might be a good shag I suppose’. This lets the reader know that Bridget is not someone who has been sheltered from ‘the harsh realities of life’ but is well aware of modern ideas. She also puts Bridget in some of the most inopportune situations that I have read in a long time, again, this builds on the impression that Bridget also tends to have bad luck. However, when Bridget speaks, we see that she is quite shy around people whom she does not know (when she isn’t drunk of course). When she is first introduced to Mark Darcy (her future love) she finds herself being lead on and simply answering with ‘I do indeed’. Helen Fielding has chosen to use words that could be considered offensive deliberately to emphasise Bridget’s personality as someone who is well aware of the world. She builds on this by placing Bridget in ‘situations from hell’ and demonstrating to the reader how, though Bridget becomes fazed by these, she recovers and moves on. Helen Fielding’s choice of descriptive words is also interpreted through Bridget’s ‘mind’ and so all descriptions not only provide information, but also an insight into Bridget’s character.
Again, like Jane Austen, Helen Fielding uses characters from her book to represent social groups in real life. The character of Daniel Cleaver represents ‘chauvinistic’ men, and Helen Fielding uses him to send a message to ‘chauvinistic’ men, about what women think. Mark Darcy, on the other hand, is meant to represent the ‘perfect man’, and is supposed to be a role model for other men to follow. Bridget’s friend ‘Sharon’ is a representation of ‘feminists’, and Helen Fielding uses her to ridicule the more ‘extremist’ feminists, by showing her to be completely obsessed with not obsessing about men. Bridget’s mother is the representation of every overbearing and irrepressible mother, she constantly tries to run Bridget’s life and Helen Fielding makes a point through her to all mothers like this to stop ‘nagging’. Finally, Bridget herself is every single woman ‘in her thirty-somethings’ who suffers from all of the above. Helen Fielding uses Bridget to provide a light and humorous way of looking at a situation through someone else’s eyes.
In ‘Pride and Prejudice’ I found the meeting scene between Elizabeth Bennet and Darcy to be a good showcase of the techniques used by Jane Austen throughout the book. The scene starts with the introduction or Mr.Darcy as a ‘fine gentleman’ of ‘noble mein’ and was pronounced as ‘a fine figure of a man’, the reader also learns that he is incredibly rich, having ‘ten thousand a year’. But the reader soon learns with disgust that he is ‘incredibly proud’ and deemed ‘to be above pleasing’. Austen achieves this affect by first leading the reader to believe that he is a good person, a perfect match for the heroine whom the reader has come to like. But when he is declared to be proud, the reader begins to dislike him. Austen uses him as a stereotype of the rich, aloof aristocracy, the kind whom everyone dislikes and enjoys hating. Austen uses stereotypes a lot in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ to provoke set responses from the reader. She also overshadows Darcy with his friend Mr.Bingely who is described as having ‘a most pleasant countenance’. Jane Austen writes this passage with a lot of description, and only a few lines of dialogue. To this effect, she uses plenty of descriptive words.
When she does use dialogue in this scene, it is typify a character. Bingely is represented as being amiable and good mannered, and so when he speaks, it is with expected good will. Darcy however, is shown to be reserved and moody, and so it is shocking, but typical of him to say of Elizabeth ‘she is… not handsome enough to tempt me’. This creates an air of resentment for Darcy with the reader, and Austen exploits this by following up with similarly toned expressions such as ‘I am in no humour to… to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men’, which gives him an attitude that decides the reader’s mind that he really is ‘most disagreeable’. Austen emphasises this by describing with similarly emotive words what other characters at the ball felt, adding ‘amongst the most violent towards him was Mrs.Bennet’ and ‘dislike of his general behaviour was sharpened into particular resentment’, use of onomatopoeic words like ‘violent’ ‘sharpened’ and emotive words like ‘resentment’ all help to accentuate bad feeling in the reader against Darcy. Austen uses this first passage with Darcy to turn him into ‘the bad guy’ in the start, which set him up to later become ‘the good guy’ after being changed by his love for Elizabeth.
The meeting scene between Helen Fielding’s ‘Darcy’ and her main character Bridget Jones, is very different from the one in ‘Pride and Prejudice’. It is written in the past tense, and so Helen Fielding adds plenty of humour to the scene to keep it interesting. She introduces ‘Mark Darcy’ (coincidence?) to the reader as awkward and dull. The reader sees Darcy through Bridget’s eyes, and unfortunately for him, she finds him incredibly dull. He is introduced wearing ‘a diamond patterned yellow and blue v-neck jumper’ the sort, as Bridget incisively thinks ‘is favoured by the nation’s more elderly sports reporters’.
This is a typical example of how Helen Fielding has written her book, she inserts witty comments into the book to lighten the tone, and makes the reader more appreciative by making you actually laugh. Like Jane Austen, she uses dialogue spoken by the characters to state about them what Bridget herself does not. As such, Darcy begins the conversation with an awkward ‘I, Um, ah’ and settles with ‘have you read any good books lately’ followed with the expected witty comment by Bridget’s mind ‘Oh for God’s sake’. Helen Fielding uses plenty of words without censure in order to impart a far more ‘real world’ feeling to her novel. Words and phrases that would actually be used in normal conversation are commonplace in the whole novel, things like ‘smokers are on a smoking roll, and cannot be expected to stop abruptly on New Year’s Day’. All the things mentioned in ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ are topics that people can really relate to, and so Helen Fielding makes sure not to go too far off topic in what Bridget says and does.
Comparing the two different meetings from the books, it is plain where Helen Fielding has drawn inspiration from. The two scenes are remarkably similar, with only the character’s roles being reversed, with Bridget becoming the ‘Darcy’ and ‘Darcy’ becoming a meeker Elizabeth. Austen only uses informal language in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ with everything being treated with seriousness. Helen Fielding uses humour a lot more, and rarely has moments of formality in ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’, I would put this down to the fact that, while both books are similar in terms of plot, tastes in readership have changed and people now want something which provides ‘comic relief’.
Jane Austen depicts her heroine in the perfect marriage in ‘Pride and Prejudice’. She provides a good insight into people’s ideas of what a heroine should be, an what people want for that heroine. ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is acclaimed as Jane Austen’s most pleasing book. She gives her heroine a perfect marriage, and makes sure that all the ‘loose ends’ are happily tied up. Her heroine is well educated, and is depicted as being witty, charming and kind. This is really the ‘mould’ for a heroine, a reader would expect a heroine to be all of these things, and that is what Jane Austen provides for the reader. Helen Fielding’s heroine is not exactly standard heroine material compared to Elizabeth Bennet. Bridget Jones smokes, drinks, has serious emotional problems, and is generally a bit of a ‘clutz’. Yet, she is still a satisfying heroine to read about. I think this shows you just how broad the definition of a heroine can be.
It can also be put down to the time periods that a book is written in. A heroine written for the 19th century was expected to be the perfect woman, well accomplished, beautiful and caring, a character such as Bridget Jones would never have been accepted. But a modern heroine can be depicted as many things. Of course, the ‘Elizabeth Bennet’ style heroine is popular as always, but a new brand of heroine is also emerging, a heroine who does not have to be the perfect woman. I think this reflects the way society today has changed to be more accepting and less judgmental. In the future, we may see a more radical change in the style of heroine, the ‘anti-heroine’ is quickly becoming popular amongst readers, and may soon gain widespread popularity in the near future.
In conclusion, I would say that both books are creations of genius, and both impart an important message to the reader. Both books show the reader that happiness takes importance over all the trivial details of everyday life. Jane Austen teaches us that life is not just about how far you can get, it isn’t about titles, money or social status. ‘Pride and Prejudice’ shows the reader that some things are more important, in her words ‘happiness is worth reaching for, no matter what’. I found ‘Pride and Prejudice’ to be an interesting, if complicating, novel that enlightened me greatly on the topic of happiness ‘and how it might best be achieved’. Austen writes in an involving fashion, and creates characters that are easily liked to draw the reader in.
Helen Fielding also writes about the same topic, if in a different way. ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ may seem to be a ‘girly’ book, but it is really very interesting, and is an intelligent piece of comical writing with an edge of satire. Helen Fielding creates characters that the reader can easily identify with, and keeps the reader interested with a twisting plot line and comical situations. Overall, I would recommend ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’ to most readers as a good laugh, with an important sub-textual message that happiness is what you make it. ‘Pride and Prejudice’ would also come recommended, but only to more advanced readers, as the language is complex and the underlying message is well hidden. Still, I think both books teach the reader something important and are both worth reading.