Unless you have been living under a rock these past couple of months, you must have heard about the somewhat controversial plot twist in Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy, the new installment of Helen Fielding’s famed series. If this is news to you, I apologize for having to be the one to inform you of this terrible news and urge you to escape from beneath your humble abode.
However, let us return to the main issue at hand. Mr Darcy is dead. He ceases to exist in the fictional world. When I heard the news, I stared out the window into the bleak sky, while a single tear ran down my cheek and the faint whisper of “Darcy” died upon my lips (side note: all of this happened internally since I was at work and checking Facebook on the sly). Immediately, I promised myself that I would not read the book; I don’t know about you, but I do not want to live in a world without Mr. Darcy. I adopted the attitude that my father has towards the Godfather series: laud the first two movies for their cinematic genius and pretend like the third movie never happened.
Some of you may argue that Mark Darcy of Bridget Jones is not the same man as Austen’s Fitzwilliam Darcy and you are correct. But he’s pretty darn close. Mark Darcy was a modern, attainable and relatable option for me in my depressingly Darcy-free existence. And I rather take Mr. Darcy lite than nothing at all, which is why I took the news of his death so hard.
While I was dismayed at the news, I was struck by the chutzpah of Fielding. She killed off a representation of one of the most famed and beloved characters in fiction. Was she some kind of sadist? (Who will be her next victim? Santa?) Did she not want lovable but bungling Bridget to find love? It seemed to me that she was guaranteeing poor sales and dismal reviews. I thought that it could possibly be for the hype: The second book came out in 2000 and the last movie was made in 2004.
Whatever the reason behind Darcy’s death, I was intrigued despite myself. When I discovered that Ms. Fielding would be participating in a Q&A at a local bookstore, I had to go hoping to find answers. And despite not knowing what to expect, I found Ms. Fielding to be an intelligent and charismatic woman. She had a very easy manner, was ready to laugh at herself, and had the ability to make the room seem like an intimate discussion space despite the amounts of people. Dare I say it, she reminded me very much of what a real life Bridget would have been like, albeit a much more suave and sophisticated version. As for Mr. Darcy’s death, Fielding argued that in all life, even in Bridget’s, there can and will be great sadness. Yet it is Bridget’s character, her joie de vivre and her ability to still go on despite tragedy that makes her lovable to all readers. If Bridget could survive the loss of her Mr. Darcy; anything is possible. It was during this talk that I learned that prior to writing Bridget Jones, Fielding worked as a journalist in the Eastern Sudan region of Africa. This job placed her in the presence of much sadness, yet she maintained that a positive outlook gave her the ability to find happiness.
Sure enough, although sooner than I would have liked, talk turned to comparisons between Fielding and Bridget. Ms. Fielding denied that Bridget’s character was directly based off of herself, but she did say that while “it is fiction, you can only write about what you know-and exaggerate.” However, Bridgetisms seem to occur around Fielding, she shared a story of her son’s birth: Knowing her son was to be born any day, Fielding constructed a mass email that she would send as the announcement. She inadvertently sent the email that night and had to deal with people congratulating her a week before he was actually born. Again in true Bridget fashion, a printing error caused 40 pages of Sir David Jason’s autobiography My Life to be inserted into the first batch of Mad About the Boy copies. Standing there and listening to Ms. Fielding talk, I was struck by a thought: “It’s not Mr Darcy that Fielding has to escape from, but Bridget.” Perhaps the death of Darcy was to show the deeper strength of Bridget, and simultaneously herself. She is right: there is sadness in the world, but as long as it doesn’t diminish the happiness, we should be okay in the end. How many of you are going to read the Darcy-free Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy?
– Lauren Onorato