The Literary Sidekick: always the bridesmaid, never the bride!

I think Francois Seurel gets a rough deal. Like most literary sidekicks, he is doomed to stand on the sidelines of the novel’s action (‘Le Grand Meaulnes’), holding a clipboard and taking notes to pass on to us, the readers. Granted, Augustin Meaulnes doesn’t have a great time of it either, but at least his doom is largely of his own making, and he gets to have plenty of adventures along the way. While Meaulnes goes AWOL, abandoning his bride – a woman that Seurel didn’t even feel worthy to have aspired to loving himself – it is the faithful sidekick who cares for her, mourns her loss, and even raises her child as his own until Meaulnes turns up again unannounced to collect her, without so much as a box of After Eights as a token of gratitude.

The sidekick is a well-used literary device, and no wonder! It provides an author with an amiable narrator who will not only avail us of the main character’s thoughts and actions, but is on-hand to ramp up the drama when necessary, for dialogue, as a sounding board, and to provide emotional support and advice to the main protagonist. Where would Sherlock Holmes be without Doctor Watson; Sebastian Flyte without Charles Ryder; Don Quixote without Sancho Panza, or Batman without Robin?


However, maybe the sidekick also shifts attention away from those who really are at the edges of the action, us. We can living vicariously through the gravel and glitter of the bright stars who people our novels, watch them dazzle and set the world alight, then watch them crash and burn all without leaving the comfort of our sofas. Maybe, for that very reason, we love a sidekick too.