Reading guide for Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding

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Bridget Jones's Diary

A Novel

By Helen Fielding

Bridget Jones's Diary
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  • Hardcover: May 1998,
    271 pages.
    Paperback: May 1999,
    267 pages.

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Reading Guide Questions Print Excerpt

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!

An Introduction to Bridget Jones's Diary
(as if you really need one):


Single, thirty-something career woman Bridget Jones has taken the best-seller lists by storm -- much to her creator's surprise -- and entered the English language and psyche. As Newsweek put it, "Ally McBeal better watch her scrawny little back -- Bridget Jones is coming to America." Too thin and upwardly mobile, Ally nevertheless shares with Bridget an obsessive, slightly paranoid preoccupation with her love life (or lack thereof), which proves the point: Bridget lives in all of us. She is every woman who has ever looked in the mirror and groaned, resolved to Do Something About It (whether via gym membership, slashing caloric intake, or marshaling Inner Resources), and kicked off the new program in a fattening or embarrassingly public manner.

As Helen Fielding puts it for this Guide, "Bridget's battling with two different ideas. One is the image of the Cosmo Girl, that she should be living this great, independent life full of friends and glamorous dinner parties. The second is the old fashioned idea of failure: that if you're not married by thirty, you'll die alone and be found three weeks later half-eaten by an Alsatian."

So what'll it be: tragic, barren spinsterhood, or relegation to the dull, diaper-and-coordinated-pasta-container-filled realm of the Smug Marrieds?

Take the following quiz to see where you fit on the Bridget-O-Meter. Have you ever:
  • realized cellulite is creation of fiendish, misogynist extraterrestrial force in grips of which female earthlings are helpless (or entertained similar, late-night theory)
    [ ] NEVER
    [ ] OCCASIONALLY
    [ ] FREQUENTLY
     
  • not heard doorbell rung by attractive man owing to proximity of industrial-strength hairdryer to ear?
    [ ] NEVER [ ]
    OCCASIONALLY
    [ ] FREQUENTLY
     
  • had genuine concern about whereabouts of missing friend tempered by gratification at possessing perfect outfit for funeral?
    [ ] NEVER
    [ ] OCCASIONALLY
    [ ] FREQUENTLY
     
  • calculated likelihood of dying alone, in bad underwear
    [ ] NEVER
    [ ] OCCASIONALLY
    [ ] FREQUENTLY
     
  • found more than four pairs of black pantyhose -- each unwearable for a different reason -- in drawer at any one time?
    [ ] NEVER
    [ ] OCCASIONALLY
    [ ] FREQUENTLY
     
  • served guests food of a color not existing in nature? (Add five points if color is blue; one point per half-hour period between 8:30 and the hour at which dinner typically materializes; two points if consistently tempted to impress guests with food cannot pronounce.)
    [ ] NEVER
    [ ] OCCASIONALLY
    [ ] FREQUENTLY
     
  • checked phone messages more than six times an hour in any four-day period following initial sexual encounter?
    [ ] NEVER
    [ ] OCCASIONALLY
    [ ] FREQUENTLY
     
  • been late to first day on job because of two+ hours spent on optimum hair/make-up/outfit combo? (Add one point if ensemble still turned out to be dead wrong. Add two points if punctuality continues to prove elusive.)
    [ ] NEVER
    [ ] OCCASIONALLY
    [ ] FREQUENTLY

Each "never" answer is worth one point; each "occasionally" worth two points; each "frequently" worth three points. If you score over 25, you may be Bridget--unlike Helen Fielding, who says firmly, "No, I'm not Bridget. I don't smoke or drink, and I'm a virgin." Nonetheless, her hilarious account of the miseries and triumphs of one very modern woman makes Fielding a spokesperson for all of us.



Discussion Questions

  1. At one point Bridget realizes that she's been on a diet for so many years that "the idea that you might actually need calories to survive has been completely wiped out of my consciousness." Yet one of her greatest assets is that she recognizes that this eternal quest for self-improvement is doomed and silly. How does the media influence women's self-images? Why do women collaborate so energetically in the process? When Bridget decides she's simply not up to the struggle and is going to stay home in an egg-spotted sweater, it is a victory or a defeat?
  2. Was the book as satisfying to read as a conventionally structured novel? How did the diary form affect your impression of Bridget Jones's Diary? Does it make you want to keep one, and if so, why?
  3. What do you think Bridget looks like? Why does Fielding never describe her? Given the frequent references to shagging, why are there no steamy sex scenes either?
  4. "We women are only vulnerable because we are a pioneer generation daring to refuse to compromise in love and relying on our own economic power. In twenty years' time men won't even dare start with fuckwittage because we will just laugh in their faces," bellows Sharon early in the story. What purpose does Sharon's character serve? Do you think she's got a point? How do you think Bridget's daughter's story might differ from her mother's?
  5. At one point Bridget describes her mother as having been infected with "Having It All Syndrome." Does Bridget herself have a closet case of the same affliction? (She does, after all, have an affair with a her glamorous boss in publishing and a knack for TV production.) How important is professional achievement to the Bridgets of the world?
  6. On the one hand, Bridget's mother gets her daughter the job in television and is a constant in her daughter's life; on the other hand, she's impossibly self-centered, endlessly critical, and an object of some competition. "Bloody Mum," Bridget groans at one point, "how come she gets to be the irresistible sex goddess?" Is Bridget's mother a negative or positive influence on Bridget? How has she shaped her daughter?
  7. "We're not lonely. We have extended families in the form of networks of friends," says Tom, joining Sharon in deploring others' "arrogant hand-wringing about single life." Are these "urban families" an acceptable alternative to traditional family units? Are they helping to move society towards Fielding's objective, an unbiased acceptance of different ways of life?
  8. Bridget's world is unrelentingly self-centered. Is this problematic? If not, is Bridget rescued by her wit and lack of self-pity, by the fact that she does take responsibility for herself, or by something else entirely?
  9. Is the attraction between Mark Darcy and Bridget credible? Why isn't he too "safe" for her? Why isn't she too scatterbrained for him? Is it satisfying or cliched when he literally carries her off to bed?
  10. How much of Bridget's identity lies in the quest for a decent relationship? Do you think marriage would change her?

A big Jane Austen fan, Helen Fielding cheerfully admits she "pillaged her plot" from Pride and Prejudice. She's modeling the sequel on Persuasion -- how about reading it in preparation?

For more information about other Penguin Readers Guides, please call the Penguin Marketing Department at (800) 778-6425, email at reading@penguinputnam.com or write to us at: Penguin Books, Marketing Department CC, Readers' Guides, 375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3657.

Unless otherwise stated, this discussion guide is reprinted with the permission of Penguin. Any page references refer to a USA edition of the book, usually the trade paperback version, and may vary in other editions.

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