The above quote encapsulates the message that is projected through Jane Austen’s novel, Pride and Prejudice. It provides a detailed portrait of the social conventions of Austen’s time. The issues presented have been transformed to suit a modern audience in Sharon Macguire’s film, Bridget Jones’ Diary. These ideals are similar and include pride, marriage and class/reputation. Macguire alters the situations faced by Austen’s characters and mirrors them in her own personalities. However, due to the different media involved in the presentation of these texts, the techniques used by their composers differ. While Austen uses literary devices Macguire’s film is abundant in film techniques, which are essential to illustrate the meaning of her film.
In Austen’s novel her characterisation of Mr Darcy and Elizabeth highlights the major part that pride plays in their relationship. Darcy prides himself on his social standing and position. To emphasise Darcy’s pride and arrogance Austen utilises dialogue. At the Meryton ball, Darcy states, “She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me,” Darcy sees Elizabeth as his social inferior and refuses to condescend to dancing with someone “not handsome enough” for him.
Elizabeth’s impression of Darcy lingers until his underlying nobility is gradually revealed. Austen portrays this change in judgment by the metaphor of Pemberley. Its beauty enchants Elizabeth and similarly she will be charmed by the gifts of its owner. The stream, “…of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance,” is likened to Darcy who possesses a “natural importance” that is “swelled” by his arrogance, but which coexists with a genuine honesty and lack of “artificial appearance.”
This concept has been transformed from Austen’s novel by camera shots in Macguire’s film. For example, a freeze-frame of Bridget is shown after she learns of Darcy’s criticisms of her. Bridget’s posture is straight. Her head is positioned upwards reflecting her injured vanity, just as Elizabeth’s vanity is injured by Darcy’s words at the Meryton ball.
Austen also addresses the conventions and principles surrounding marriage and commitment in great depth. The plot shows how Elizabeth is able to be happy by marrying for love, not convenience.
The novel presents Austen’s readers with two differing views of marriage. In order to achieve her purpose Austen contrasts Elizabeth and Charlotte. Charlotte’s dialogue and Austen’s comments betray her pragmatic view of marriage. Unlike Elizabeth, she doesn’t hope to find a husband she loves. Austen reinforces this view through her omniscient narrator voice, "Without thinking highly either of men or of matrimony, marriage had always been her object… however uncertain of giving happiness. "
In comparison, Austen shows Elizabeth’s romanticism. Elizabeth is willing to sacrifice being comfortably married, hoping to obtain happiness by marrying someone she loves. This situation becomes ironic when Elizabeth’s marriage is not only one of mutual affection but also more financially advantageous than Charlotte's.
The presentation of marriage in the film is adapted to the modern perception of marriage through the use of camera angles and dialogue. Despite her waywardness, Macguire portrays Bridget as someone who seeks true love and commitment. During their ‘mini-break’, Bridget asks Daniel, “Do you love me?” The camera pans down from their room onto a newly wedded couple. This is in an insight into Bridget’s innermost desire and quest for true love. Thus Macguire conveys the preoccupation of women to be married that are still evident despite the different setting of her film with Austen’s novel.
To further reinforce this preoccupation, Macguire makes parallels with Pride and Prejudice in her exploration of marriage through dialogue. Daniel Cleaver says to Bridget, “If I can’t make it with you, I can’t make it with anyone.” He still looks down upon Bridget, seeing her as a benchmark for his love. For this reason, Bridget refuses him. Similarly, Mr Collins proposes to Elizabeth, “with all the observances which he supposed a regular part of the business.” and like Bridget, Elizabeth also refuses him.
For Austen, class and reputation illustrates the regimented life of Regency England. Once again, her omniscient narrator voice exemplifies the exploration of class. When Darcy initially proposes to Elizabeth, “…he was not more eloquent on the subject of tenderness than of pride. His sense of her inferiority- of its being an obstacle…” This quote shows Darcy’s strong class prejudices and his desire to avoid proposing to Elizabeth because of “the inferiority of her connections”.
Austen also presents Lady Catherine as a rich woman who is arrogant because of her wealth and social position. Her words towards the end of the novel, “Are the shades of Pemberley to be thus polluted?” reinforce class differences between Elizabeth and Darcy, heightening the effect of Austen’s ridicule. This is also ironic because although Lady Catherine sought to separate Elizabeth and Darcy, her visit has no effect other than to unite them.
The removal of a distinct class system in modern times has seen a significant change in the exploration of this concept by Macguire. The class structure from the 18th century is similar to regard for reputation in contemporary times. The buffet introduces Macguire’s audience to Bridget’s inability to integrate into this kind of society. Macguire makes differentiations between Bridget and Elizabeth and thus evaluates the significance of reputation within the two contexts. When Darcy criticises Elizabeth at the Meryton Ball, she gets satisfaction by ruining Darcy’s social image. She does not act on Darcy’s words. Conversely, Bridget determinedly acts on Mark Darcy’s words. To reinforce her resolution Macguire uses Bridget’s voiceover, “That was it- right there, that moment,” during a freeze-frame at the end of the scene. Macguire also shows a montage of shots where Bridget exercises in order to assimilate. This shows the social pressures on body image have changed and they are causing Bridget to compromise defining aspects of her character. It is Darcy who saves her reputation by offering her the ‘Sit Up Britain’ interview. Further, his acceptance of her, “I like you just as you are,” saves Bridget from disintegration. Similarly, Mr Darcy saves Elizabeth’s reputation by financing to Lydia’s marriage. He accepts Elizabeth despite her family’s reputation.
Both texts provide an insightful comprehension of human nature and its tendency to judge by first impressions. The transformation from Austen’s novel to Macguire’s film shows that despite the extended period between the texts, ideals have not changed to a great extent. Both composers seek to convey similar concepts through the use of various techniques both filmic and literary. Their effectiveness and acceptance into society is evident by the active reception of both texts by the general public.