Sue Townsend

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole

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The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Summary

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Told in the form of a diary, Sue Townsend’s young adult novel The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾ (1982) details the existence and struggles of the titular British boy who, fancying himself an intellectual, often misunderstands the events surrounding him.

The novel opens with the January 1st entry, in which Adrian lists his New Year’s resolutions and complains that his father, George, got the dog drunk at the party the night before. Suspecting his parents might be alcoholics, he has pessimistic expectations for his living situation. After the drunken party, both parents become ill; Adrian attempts to be a good person by preparing meals for them, but they do not eat his food, which perplexes him. Adrian is also part of a school group that helps older people; he is assigned an eighty-nine-year old man named Bert.

He describes the misadventures of the family dog, which escapes the house and causes trouble. He blames his acne on his parents and the lack of vitamins in his diet. The dog, which has been eating non-edible items, has an obstruction and has to have an operation at the Vet. He sees Malcolm Muggeridge on the television and, understanding everything that is said, concludes that he is an intellectual, and so decides he will join the library. He begins writing poetry, which he believes is ‛very deep.’

At school, Adrian meets Pandora and decides he might fall in love with her. He tries to discuss his feelings for her with his parents, but they are too busy fighting with each other, in part over the attention that Mr. Lucas is paying to his mother, Pauline. Mr. Lucas comes by frequently to do chores and other work. Pauline then takes a job in Mr. Lucas’s office and begins dressing differently and ignoring the housework. Pauline explains that sometimes marriage is a prison for women, but Adrian doesn’t understand this as his mother and other wives are free to come and go as they please. He sees Mr. Lucas reading a pornographic magazine and wonders if he should tell his mother about it. Adrian then begins reading the same magazine, reasoning that it’s okay for intellectuals. He becomes very concerned about his acne, and when his mother refuses to do anything about it, he calls his grandmother, who comes and takes him to the doctor.

Pandora and Adrian begin dating officially. Adrian’s mother goes to live with Mr. Lucas. Adrian enjoys playing pranks for April Fools’ Day but does not enjoy having pranks played on him. He turns fourteen, and for his birthday, his mother and Mr. Lucas give him money. Adrian has to help his father around the house with everything and even has to use some of his birthday money to buy groceries. He is unhappy when George meets Doreen and begins seeing her, also bringing her son, Maxwell, into Adrian’s life.

The financial situation worsens, and soon the power is cut off. Adrian is unhappy and can only relax at his grandmother’s house. Pauline announces she is coming home, and George immediately breaks off his affair with Doreen, believing Pauline to be coming home for good. Adrian knows that this is just a visit, however. George is officially laid off, and Doreen begins spending more time there to take care of him; Adrian finds himself warming up to her. He wears red socks to school to be rebellious and is lectured. He is diagnosed with tonsillitis and must have a tonsillectomy.

The Singh family moves in next door, and George has a racist attitude towards them, but Adrian and Pandora welcome the new family. Then school ends and Pandora goes away with her family on vacation. Adrian becomes depressed and writes more poetry. Adrian introduces Bert to the Singh family, and he begins living there. However, when Mr. Singh returns to his home country to tend to family matters, he evicts Bert because he worries about leaving the old man alone with the women, to Bert’s delight. Adrian and Pandora, returned from vacation, clean up Bert’s original home.

Adrian begins corresponding with an American boy but doesn’t understand all the slang the boy uses in his letters. As his acne returns worse than ever, he thinks Pandora is falling out of love, and he decides they should go on a survival hike to rekindle their romance. Bert is taken into an old folks home, and Adrian and Pandora stop visiting him because it is depressing. Pandora informs Adrian that despite their earlier agreement to do so, she doesn’t want to marry him when they turn sixteen, but wants to go on to university. Adrian submits a poem to the BBC in hopes of impressing her, but it is rejected. Launching a literary magazine with Pandora at the school, he writes an “expose” about a schoolmate, Barry Kent, expecting a huge response, but no one seems to care. Adrian begins a relationship with  Barbara, but she breaks it off quickly because she and Pandora are friends.

Adrian’s mother returns home. Bert meets a woman in the old folks home and gets married. As the new year comes, Adrian once again makes a list of resolutions, but these are more practical as he begins to wonder if he’s as smart as he always thought. Adrian has an accident with model glue and ends up in the hospital. He calls Pandora and she forgives him. As he waits for her to visit, he realizes the only thing that can save him is love.