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Bridget Jones's Diary is a story about the life of a girl determined to have it all. Bridget is the thirty-something we are all frightened of becoming or know that we have already become. She is every woman who has looked in the mirror and groaned because she has put on an extra 10 pounds by eating all the Christmas chocolate so it won't be lying around and resolved to do something about it whether it's getting a gym membership or counting calories.
Daniel Cleaver and Mark Darcy are the antagonists of the story. Both men send Bridget into a frenzy whenever they are around. Daniel is flirtatious and can be somewhat of a jerk when it comes to women. He is the type of man who will do anything to sleep with every woman and he's the type of man that every woman should be warned about by their mothers when they are growing up. Mark Darcy on the other hand is smart, cautious and rather smuggish. He is always dressed in preppy clothes such as a diamond sweater and always appears to act kind of shy when he is around Bridget. They carry on conversation, but sometimes the topics make Bridget flinch, such as the first time they met; Mark asked Bridget if she had read any good books lately, and Bridget couldn't answer because she was too worried about what Mr. Darcy was going to think of her. After her failed first attempt with Mr. Darcy, Bridget blames herself for not being able to fall in love; she feels that she isn't able to find true love because she is always going to find a way to flub it up.
Bridget's mother makes her feel guilty by overwhelming Bridget with a sense of her own unexplored possibilities, saying "you've simply got too much choice" (169). Mrs. Jones exemplifies the exercising of choice.
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Bridget's mother is not the only force encouraging Bridget to change. The myth of self-perfection saturates Bridget's perception of her life. In many ways, American culture is very present to Bridget. She considers herself "a child of Cosmopolitan culture" (52), and many of her role models are American women. Long before Daniel confesses that he plans to marry an American (161), he goes to New York on business, and Bridget obsesses, "He will clearly by now have got off with thin American cool person called Winona who puts out, carries a gun and is everything I am not" (35). Bridget is fascinated with "everything I am not," the choices and selections she has made, the things she has ruled out. For Bridget, the U.S. is a place where one choice or failing does not necessarily rule out other choices or opportunities for success, instead it is a place where the self can be constantly re-made.
Fielding does a very good job of developing each character throughout the novel. By using a first person point of view, she allows Bridget to describe each person as she sees them in each scene. By maintaining Bridget's voice throughout, the diary format Fielding also allows the reader to judge the character and their predicaments and how they relate to Bridget for themselves.
Throughout the story, Bridget is forced to face some pretty tough dilemmas, all of which distinguish a certain theme of the novel. For instance, a very clear theme is that of the many "battles" of finding true love. Bridget is always thinking that she will be single forever. She seems to have issues believing in true love and believing that one day her prince will come. Another prevalent theme throughout would be that of persuasion. Someone or something is always persuading Bridget that she can do better than what she has already got. At one point during the novel, she is persuaded out of a relationship because she has ready too many self-help books about how to improve her relations.
The tone of this story is light, funny and at some points chaotic. Bridget always manages to turn everyday events into chaotic adventures. One example of this is when she is employed by the television station. She is doing an interview at a fire house. The plan was for her to slide down the fireman's pole and land near the person she was interviewing live on air. While waiting for her cue, she mistakenly started sliding down
too soon, realizing that it wasn't time for her to slide down, she attempts to climb back up the pole and the station comes to her live while she is halfway up the pole.
As a woman writer, Helen Fielding does a remarkable job of not only giving us the female perspective on relationships and the life of a singleton, she also does a great job of taking us through the journey of finding true love from the male and female aspect. A good example of this is when Bridget finds out that Daniel is getting married. He has been dating her and another woman at the same time. By describing Bridget's actions when she suspects there is another woman in the apartment, Fielding gives us a glimpse of what it is like for a man who is being accused of cheating as his girlfriend secretly tries to catch him in a lie.
The story is highly predictable in the fact that at the end, someone is going to be standing alone in the cold while the other two ride off into the sunset together. Fielding does a great job of making the reader laugh while helping them recall their own painful memories. She leaves no stone unturned when it comes to the delicate balance of life and love; she allows the reader to discover that no matter how terrible they think their life is, Bridget's is always going to seem worse. We've all been there; we just wish we were half as funny when recounting it in our own diaries.
Fielding, Helen. Bridget Jones's Diary. New York, NY; Viking Penguin, 1998.