Pride and Prejudice versus 'Bridget Jones´s Diary'

Characters, styles and themes and the relevance of time

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2010

30 Pages, Grade: 1,5



1. Introduction

2. The stolen Story: Characters and the Plot

3. Heroes and their Antagonists: The Presentation of Men
3.1 Darcy - The Hero
3.2 Cleaver and Wickham - The Bastards

4. Elizabeth Jones meets Bridget Bennet
4.1 Fine Eyes and Size 12
4.2 The Lack of Education
4.3 Self-confidence meets Clumsiness

5. The Role of the Family

6. Different Time, Different Style
6.1 Narrative Mode
6.2 Language
6.3 The Change of the Novel: From Metaphors of Love to cheeky Chicklit

7. The Importance of Coupledom and Marriage
7.1 Spinsters, Bachelors, Singletons and Social Pressure
7.1.1 Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus
7.2 Marriage - Material in the 19th and 20th Century
7.3 Superficiality - The Importance of Beauty

8. Bridget Jones - A top Post-Modernist and a Post-Feminist

9. Conclusion

10. List of Sources

1. Introduction

Bridget Jones is a chain-smoker and a hard-drinker. She is messy, slightly overweight and, even worse, she is still single. Clumsy Bridget spends her time downing drinks with her crazy single friends and strolling around the office with her little skirt. Helen Fielding´s modern novel opens the diary of a British single woman who is desperately looking for “Mr. Right” in a world of “emotional fuckwittages”. Quite the contrary is Elizabeth Bennet, the young heroine in Jane Austen´s most famous novel Pride and Prejudice. She is one of 5 daughters, polite, sophisticated, selfless and, due to her education, she would never compromise herself in public like Bridget always does.

One can hardly believe that there can be found any parallels between Bridget Jones´s Diary and the probably most romantic British novel, Pride and Prejudice. In fact, there are about 200 years between both works but they are indeed comparable. There are numerous parallels between both novels, starting with characters and their relationships; there are scenes that resemble each other and themes both literary works focus on, such as misunderstandings and wrong first impressions, the importance of love, partnership and marriage, complicated or even ‘dysfunctional’ family relations, and status, wealth and reputation. “[…] thematically there are a number of echoes - […] the constraints of social etiquette, the dynamics of communication between the sexes, a certain eccentricity in the chief characters, and the continuing importance of the family (Whelehan 34).”

In a number of interviews Helen Fielding admitted that she took Austen´s novel as a basis for her literary work because she looked up to Jane Austen, liked her novel and she considered the themes and characters in Pride and Prejudice to be still relevant and timeless. “Fielding acknowledges that she “shamelessly stole the plot” of Pride and Prejudice because “it had been v. well market researched over a number of centuries.” (Whelehan 30).” Nevertheless, Fielding´s novel cannot just be seen as a copy of Pride and Prejudice. It is a modern version of Austen´s romance, which considers the social changes of the last centuries. Among these changes is the role of women, for instance. In several decades of feminism women have fought for equal rights and against their oppression. These days, women can live independently from men, have careers and are not engaged with knitting, singing or playing the piano all day long, anymore. Single households have become more and more common and popular, while in the 19th century such a trend was unimaginable (Whelehan 26).

These are just some social circumstances that have changed and that lead to some indispensible alterations and differences of the characters and the plot of the novels. The fact that the main themes are absolutely the same, strengthens the parallels between the literary works, and also reveals several aspects the British society has not been able to change in the last 200 years. How are the protagonists presented, and what does this presentation say about the society? What alterations in style had to be made and for which reasons? Which themes are brought up in the novels and why are they still relevant? These are just some questions the term paper intends to answer.

2. The stolen Story: Characters and the Plot

Before going into detail, there is a need to reveal the most obvious similarities considering the plot and the characters. What exactly does Helen Fielding have “shamelessly stolen”? Most readers probably do not recognize that the opening scenes of both novels are somehow alike, as well as the whole framework of the plots. The heroines and the heroes get to know each other at a kind of ‘party’. The heroes behave rudely and appear to be too proud. Consequently, the heroines are hurt and have prejudices against the heroes. Following the plots, the final romances of the lovers are disturbed by several obstacles the protagonists have to overcome; among them are pride and prejudices.

At the latest when it comes to some characters the reader realizes the parallels between the novels. The most striking similarity is certainly the character Darcy. Sure, his surname is different but no matter if he is called Fritzwilliam or Mark, he is the reserved, gentleman-like and wealthy “Mr. Right” Elizabeth and Bridget are looking for. “The heroes they fall for are always dark, tall, a little older, successful, surely, and smouldering with unawakened passion (Whelehan 32).” In both literary works the romances are disturbed by mean male characters, who lie about Darcy - Daniel Cleaver in Bridget Jones´s Diary and Wickham in Pride and Prejudice. Both are handsome and charming and hurt the heroines. Another parallel aspect is the frivolous affair between Mrs. Jones and Julio, and the elopement of Elizabeth´s younger sister Lydia with the womanizer Wickham. The hero is Darcy in both cases, as he helps the family of the heroines. In addition to that, the parents of both heroines have a lot in common- both fathers are rather ignorant and do not have any romantic feelings for their wives, which makes the marriage of the protagonists´ parents comparable. Mrs. Bennet and Mrs. Jones, the mothers of the main characters, resemble each other as they desperately try to marry off their daughters. This obsession with finding a good match also leads to a link between Bridget Jones herself, who is fixated on catching Mr. Right, and Mrs. Bennet, whose sense of live is finding wealthy husbands for her daughters (Whelehan 16).

This is an outline of the similarities between the characters and the plot of Pride and Prejudice and Bridget Jones´s Diary. The following 3 chapters give a detailed comparison of the main characters and also have a look at the parallels and the differences in consideration of the time the novels are set in.

3. Heroes and their Antagonists: The Presentation of Men

“Men largely fall into three categories in Bridget Jones´s Diary - the hero, the bastard, and the gay friend (Whelehan 50).” The gay friend is more a ‘phenomenon’ of contemporary society - a man who is part of women´s group because he thinks like a woman and suffers from the same social prejudices like his female single friends (Fielding 27). Sure, there is no Tom in Pride and Prejudice, but the concept of the hero and the bastards are perfectly applicable to the characters of both novels.

3.1 Darcy - The Hero

Darcy is the most striking similarity between the novels and the use of the same character is certainly not just an accident. In an interview Helen Fielding enthused about the BBC film Pride and Prejudice, which was also released in the 90s, and especially about the cast of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. She had this figure in her mind when she brought Mark Darcy into being. (Whelehan 34/CNN International).

As Bridget is highly influenced by media, she has not missed the film Pride and Prejudice. She loves the romantic story and compares Fritzwilliam Darcy with Mark. For her Mr. Darcy is preferable to Mark Darcy considering his attractiveness, but when it comes to his behavior she thinks that Mark is more polite (247) (Whelehan 34).

There are indeed much more parallels between Mr. Darcy and Mark than between the heroines. This leads to the assumption that the Darcy character is somehow timeless, as he is presented in almost the same way in both books. The heroine, on the other hand, apparently needs to be changed because the readership has changed as well. Sure, the target groups of both novels are women, but the readers of Bridget Jones´s Diary consider the romanticized heroine Elizabeth not proper and in the spirit of the time, anymore. So, Bridget came into being. “It is perhaps more a novel which is aimed at busy, urban, thirtysomethings […] (Whelehan 34).” But, Darcy remained Darcy and this fact leads to the assumption that the 20th century-woman is still longing for the same classical hero as women did 200 years ago - tall, handsome, wealthy and absolutely gentleman-like.

Considering the relationships between the heroes and the heroines differences are recognizable. Mark Darcy is absent for almost the whole plot. He gets to know Bridget at the beginning of the novel and appears to be reserved, arrogant and too proud. His seemingly rude behavior turns out to be mistaken and an expression of utter insecurity. Mark Darcy does not change over the novel and Bridget is the only one who does not like him. Bridget´s prejudices and her wrong first impressions thwart their harmonization. At the end he tells her that he has liked her all the time for being different than other women. He helps her to prepare a dinner and saves her mother from prison but Bridget does not recognize his affection for her because he does not know how to behave in front of her.

Elizabeth, on the other hand, has many reasons not to like him. As Bridget mentions it in her diary, Mr. Darcy is much ruder than Mark. Nobody likes Mr. Darcy because he arrogantly feels superior to everybody else. He is aware and proud of his social status and offends her by saying she would not be handsome enough to dance with, in a really patronizing way. Furthermore, he influences his friend Bingley and encourages him not to marry Jane. Apart from these facts, it is the distinct social status that is in the way of the romance and of an equal relationship. He is the one who has to overcome his narrow-minded insistence on his higher social class, which he has internalized since early childhood. In favor of love, he does indeed overlook the class differences, which is rather untypical of that time. “It could be said that the novel simply ignores the harsher realities that constituted the lives of women at the time (Walder 53).”

Both Darcys are sick of all the ordinary women around them, be it Mark´s skinny and attractive colleague Natasha or Bingley´s sister. Even though, both women enjoy a much better social reputation than the heroines, the Darcy characters do not fall in love with the accomplished women and make the Cinderella-fairytale come true for the heroines.

“Bridget, all the other girls are so lacquered over. I don´t know anyone else who would fasten a bunny tail to their pants […] (Fielding 237).”

3.2 Cleaver and Wickham - The Bastards

The heroines initially reject the heroes and meet the bastards, namely Daniel Cleaver and Wickham. Both are handsome and charming but they are manipulative and their lies about the hero intensify the heroines´ prejudices against Darcy.

Wickham is “exposed respectively as mercenary, perfidious, unprincipled and mendacious (Gillie 119)” and he is the man who Elizabeth feels attracted to and whom she initially trusted. “Elizabeth went away with her head full of him. She could think about nothing but Mr. Wickham (Austen 68).”

It is pretty much the same situation between Bridget and Daniel Cleaver. The parallels between these two mean characters are obvious. They serve as another obstacle of love between the heroes and the heroines. Due to the different historical backgrounds, certain facets of the bastards are presented differently.

Daniel Cleaver is an up-to-date womanizer. His major concerns are dating and sleeping with as many women as he can. This ‘emotional fuckwit’ would never marry because there is no need to do so - he is rich, independent and in his urban social surroundings there are numerous ‘uncomplicated’ women to choose from. Cleaver is Bridget´s boss and they have a sexual affair, unlike Elizabeth and Wickham. The relationship between the heroine and the bastard in Pride and Prejudice is different. While Cleaver is superior to Bridget, Elizabeth and Wickham are equals. They have the same social status and they are short in money. Even though, Wickham´s marriage-potential leaves a lot to be desired, she feels attracted to him. This behavior shows her headstrong character, who mainly remains unimpressed by social demands (Todd 63). At the end, she is the one who rejects him, while Bridget is the one who makes herself emotionally dependent on Daniel Cleaver (see ch. 8).

4. Elizabeth Jones meets Bridget Bennet

Little parallels can be found between the heroines of both novels. They share some basics: both are single, have the same sort of self-centered mother, feel the social pressure to find a partner and to marry, and they are manipulated by the same sort of man. The protagonists overcome obstacles and fall for the same Mr. Right, whom they initially reject. Both have prejudices against Darcy at the beginning, which emerge from his initial pride. Darcy hurts the heroines - Mark does not want to have Bridget´s telephone number and Fritzwilliam considers Elizabeth not beautiful enough to dance with. The heroes´ refusal and the wrong first impressions lead to the anti-attitude of Elizabeth and Bridget towards him. The change of the romantic relationships can also be considered the same. Both women suddenly fall in love with their heroes when they realize that they are in want of them. So, the heroines act really passive and traditional, and wait until they are in want of the hero.

Considering the parallels of the heroines´ characters one can say that Bridget and Elizabeth openly say what they think. “I would wish not to be hasty in censuring any one; but I always speak what I think (Austen 14).” In Bridget´s case one knows that she hardly thinks about what could come out of her mouth, which is also an effect of the first-person narrative mode because the reader gets an insight in her thoughts.

The list of differences between them turns out to be much longer than the things they have in common. Bridget is in her thirties, thus much older than Elizabeth, and she lives in a flat in the city, whereas Austen´s heroine lives in the countryside with her parents and her sisters. Bridget has a job, reads women´s magazines, smokes, drinks too much, is concerned about her weight - she is really a “top post-modernist” and totally different than Elizabeth. Bridget has a sexual relationship with Cleaver, while Wickham strives for Elizabeth´s attention and wants to marry her. There are no sexual avances between them.

4.1 Fine Eyes and Size 12

The outward appearance of both women cannot be derived from an obvious detailed description. While Bridget is concerned about her look and her body all the time, Elizabeth never mentions to be beautiful, ugly, overweight or too thin. Thinness these days is considered to be beautiful and as Bridget is highly influenced by media, being skinny is her personal goal. But, there is hardly any comment on Bridget´s outward appearance. Just when she loses some pounds her friends tell her she would look sick and drained.

Body shape is certainly not a concern of 19th-century Britain. Via conversations between the characters in Austen´s novel the reader recognizes that it is indeed a matter if someone is beautiful or not, but nobody bad-mouths about an overweight person. Following Elizabeth´s mother “she is not half as handsome as Jane (6)”; Darcy´s first impression is that “she is tolerable, but not handsome enough (11)”; but later he describes her totally different. “I have been mediating on the very great pleasure which a pair of fine eyes in the face of a pretty woman can bestow (23). If she was that beautiful, he would have said that from the very beginning. Getting to know her makes up his mind and it is probably her character that has suddenly given her “a pair of fine eyes”.

4.2 The Lack of Education

The education of the heroines is different, which is due to the limited access women had to education in the 19th century and the almost unlimited opportunities women have had since the 20th century. Miss Bingley gives a picture of a well-educated and accomplished woman in which Elizabeth does not fit.

A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half-deserved (33).

Darcy adds to Miss Bingley´s qualities that ‘she’ should read a lot. Another indicator of Elizabeth´s education is the conversation between Lady Catherine de Bourgh and her, in which Elizabeth tells her that she was not educated in singing, playing or drawing (129). This is what was expected of women by the 19th century society. Nevertheless, through the way Elizabeth acts the reader does not have the impression that she is short-witted. She is in favour of her father who thinks that “she has something more of quickness than her sisters (6)” and so thinks Darcy when he says goodbye to his pride and really gets to know her.

Bridget, on the other hand, has a degree in English and works in publishing. Despite this fact, she appears brainless and not interested in education, at all. The reader gets the impression that her job just collides with her leisure time. Bridget constantly compromises herself when she tries to appeal clever, for instance, when she pretends to have read the book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus and Mark asks her about her opinion (14). Her boss Perpetua introduces her by saying that she is that kind of woman who favors dating shows over Shakespeare (101), which gives the reader an idea of her interest in light entertainment.


Excerpt out of 30 pages


Pride and Prejudice versus 'Bridget Jones´s Diary'
Characters, styles and themes and the relevance of time
Ernst Moritz Arndt University of Greifswald  (Institut für Anglistik/Amerikanistik)
The gentleman and the angel in the house
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
587 KB
Bridget Jones, Mark Darcy, Bennet, Chick Lit, Jane Austen, Helen Fielding, Women, Feminist, spinster, bachelor, marriage, fuckwittage, smug married
Quote paper
Juliane Heß (Author), 2010, Pride and Prejudice versus 'Bridget Jones´s Diary', Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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