Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Side-Kick syndrome

I finished Sharpe's Fury last weekend. I love these books. They are like Hallowe'en candy; they can get sickeningly sweet somewhere in the middle what with the same scenarios, green rifle-coat one-liners, and Sharpe's attraction to women who string through the novels like Bond girls, but they are addictive.

And, as always, my opinion of Cornwell's long serial was heightened by my fervent enjoyment of Patrick Harper.

I love Patrick Harper. In the television series as well as in the books. Harper always commences a stream-of-consciousness loop that leads back to my high school English ISU: Side-kicks in Literature and how they are often stronger than the lead character themselves. Watson is more than a "whetstone for Holmes' mind", he is the moral centre of the book, the counterbalance between the willing reader and Holmes' egotism.

Along with Watson and Holmes I delved into Robinson Crusoe and his good man Friday ( however politically incorrect his portrayal seems nowadays with its "savage" overtones ) and Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.

My love for the "side-kicks" never fails me. I wonder if the "everyman" in me ( the every "person" for those who hate the gendering of terms ) leads me to relate more to those slightly out of the spotlight.

Consider Herbert Pocket in Great Expectations: often Pip's compass and moral advisor; Consider Gabriel Utterson in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Often times the sidekick is made of sterner stuff than the man or woman given the leading role. Or, for a different splash of flavour, Harriet in Jane Austen's Emma: certainly not the centre of attention but the reason that our titular heroine is able to play out many of her schemes. The sidekick becomes project, thus. The sidekick becomes essential to the unravelling of the plot.

Modern literature, as well as 18th and 19th C literature aforementioned, is peppered with sidekicks worthy of our acclaim. The major root of my love for the mystery genre lies in its serialized format. Should a devout reader fall hard for a sidekick---legman Archie Goodwin in the Nero Wolfe books, Meyer in John D. MacDonald's Travis McGee series, Barbara Havers in Elizabeth George's Lynley books and Melrose Plant the sidekick who supersedes the traditional role of sidekick and turns it on its ear----they have publication after publication to watch them grow and evolve.

The historical adventure novel lends itself well as a landscape where happy sidekicks can exist. Think the interesting role of Maturin the secret agent/nautical surgeon in the brillian Patrick O'Brian series, Ate in the Jack Absolute series by Humphreys, and Renzi in Julian Stockwin's interesting "Kydd" books.

Ron in Harry Potter, Brom in Eragon, Miles Dorrington in the Pink Carnation books by Lauren Willig---the list goes on and on.

They are far more than foils. How many fandoms on the internet arise from sidekick love? Think the fabulous Doctor that plays roomate to the uptight House, Archie Kennedy ( or even Lieut. Bush ) in A and E's Hornblower, Milner in "Foyle's War."

In a Scandal in Bohemia, Holmes famously informs Watson that he is "lost without my Boswell."

After another bout into Sargeant Harper-land, the sentence starts ringing true for many a delightful character and drives my respect for a well-drawn second-player even more.


Anonymous said...

Yay, sidekick love!

Anonymous said...

Great post. :-) Perfect for my first blog-read on a Saturday morning...although I did pick up more recommendations for my interminable wishlist. Grrrrr...

(Did you enjoy 'Eragon'? I thought it was dreadful...)

Anonymous said...

Hmm...Sharpe...I have seen these at the library. Are they good? I really liked Archie Kennedy and was sad to see him die, though I think I will like Bush as well. Nice post!

ducKy Boyd said...

Sam and Frodo! Merry and Pippin!
R2 and 3PO! Batman and Robin! Superman and Jimmy Olson! Kirk and Spock! Frog and Toad! Anne Shirley and Diana Barry! Melrose Plant and Ducky Boyd!!! Sidekicks galore!