Outrage as novelist kills off hunky hero

Mark Darcy, love interest for the heroine of the Bridget Jones books and her fans, is already dead as the third volume of fictional diaries is published. Why the outpouring of grief?

The great novelist William Faulkner , giving advice to aspiring writers, counselled them to ‘kill your darlings’. He meant they should go back over what they had written and remove all of the clever linguistic tricks of which they were most proud, to clean up the text and make it more direct.

But this week fans of the Bridget Jones novels have been appalled to find their favourite author, Helen Fielding, has taken Faulkner’s advice rather literally: the new volume of Bridget’s fictional diaries finds her a widow. Mark Darcy, her heroic human-rights lawyer love interest, is dead.

‘Why would they do this to us?’ came the anguished cry from readers giving vent to their feelings on Facebook and Twitter. Fielding herself, in interviews given to promote the new book, Mad About The Boy , talked about saying goodbye to ‘my darling Darcy’.

In the best traditions of the novel , extracts were published in a newspaper over the weekend. They revealed that Bridget, now 51, has been through much in the years since the second volume was published in 1999. She now has two children, Mabel and Billy, but has been widowed for five years. The cause of Mark’s death will be revealed in flashbacks only when the novel is published in full later this month – leaving fans of the movies with the hope that there will still be a chance to see Colin Firth reprise his role as Darcy.

So why would Fielding want to kill off the nation’s favourite imaginary heartthrob?

Darcy may be important as Bridget’s love object, but she, the chaotic character seen as an everywoman in the 1990s, is the humorous heart of the saga. In volume one, Bridget was a struggling singleton with career problems. Now she’s a widower preoccupied with her once-again-single status. Would a happily-married Bridget, calmer and more mature, be the same woman the fans warmed to?

Probably not: like Charlotte Brontë’s Lucy Snowe , she was not designed to ‘appoint her lot in pleasant places’. As one critic put it, Bridget is fated to be wretched and therein lies her comic appeal.

Laughter and tears

Darcy, it seems, had to die. The logic of Helen Fielding’s comic creation made it necessary. Perhaps, since the whole thing is an invention, readers and movie-goers who have enjoyed the previous fruits of Fielding’s pen should stop criticising her artistic decisions. Instead they should enjoy episode three for what it is: another romp featuring an out-of-control character and her tumultuous adventures.

But others feel betrayed: ‘Hold on!’ they cry. It is against the spirit of both romance and comedy to exterminate the hero. Of course with a character like Bridget Jones in the middle of the plot, loose ends will never be tied up. But fans shouldn’t be expected to laugh through their own horror at her bereavement.

You Decide

  1. Has Helen Fielding ‘betrayed’ Bridget Jones fans?
  2. ‘Happy endings are dishonest and unhelpful.’ Do you agree?

Activities

  1. Helen Fielding calls him ‘my darling Darcy:’ can you think of other fictional characters with whom the author seems to be in love?
  2. ‘Comedy cannot work without a happy ending.’ Discuss.

Some People Say...

“There are no heroes and heroines in real life.”

What do you think?

Q & A

Grieving over a fictional character? Give me a break.
Well, you can certainly disapprove if you like, but perhaps Mark Darcy isn’t your chosen heartthrob? Lots of people do become very involved with characters they feel they ‘know’. Actors in soap operas find that playing the villain brings them a lot of hostility in the streets, for example.
You just proved my point: crazy.
Certainly that example showed a pretty poor understanding of the line between fact and fiction. But we all have – and arguably we all need – our own favourite fictional characters, either to identify with or to project our fantasies onto. The entire film industry is based on this common human urge to ‘believe in’ made up stories, their heroes and heroines.

Word Watch

William Faulkner
– The American novelist (1897-1962), like his near-contemporary Ernest Hemingway, advocated a pared-down writing style with no unnecessary words, although his own novels contain different styles, including stream of consciousness. The great English writer Samuel Johnson had similar advice for writers: ‘Read over your compositions and, when you meet a passage that you think is particularly fine, strike it out.’
Traditions of the novel
– Many of the greatest English novelists had their works published as serials in the magazines and periodicals of the time. And the Bridget Jones books started life as a fictional newspaper column written anonymously by Helen Fielding.
Lucy Snowe
– The awkward narrator of Villette by Charlotte Brontë, is ill and unhappy. When she finally finds love, the novelist shocks readers by apparently drowning her new husband at sea, although the ending is left ambiguous.

Subjects

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