Thursday, May 13, 2010

Character Connection - Captain Arthur Hastings

This is a very interesting meme from the Introverted Reader, where the goal is to spotlight one character of interest every week.

Almost all detective novels feature a loyal sidekick who assists the detective in his quest to solve a crime. In police procedurals, this sidekick is often an officer of lower rank, while in novels with a private detective, the responsibility falls on the shoulder of a friend or significant other. One of my favorite sidekicks in Captain Arthur Hastings, the friend and companion of Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot, who is my Character Connection for this week.

Arthur Hastings is introduced to us in Poirot's first case "The Mysterious Affair at Styles". The year is 1916, the First World War is going on, Hastings is thirty and has just returned home from the Front to convalesce after being invalided. He runs into Poirot whom he has encountered before, but their partnership in solving crime begins at Styles.

A sidekick in a detective novel plays an important role as he or she makes it possible for us to view all that goes on in the story, without getting into the detective's head or without the author being the narrator. Hercule Poirot confides in Hastings (though not all), and this allows us to keep up with Poirot and knowing what he knows, while enabling us to come to our own conclusions given that knowledge.

Hastings is the perfect companion - fiercely loyal to Poirot, willing to take risks for him and carry out his instructions without questioning why. Hastings is sometimes annoyed at Poirot for not telling him all, but can never stay annoyed with Poirot for long, such is his respect and love for Poirot. All this makes Hastings very endearing to me - in fact, I often feel closer to Hastings than to Poirot. Poirot is indeed brilliant, but he may just have too many little grey cells when compared to the average reader of detective fiction. Poirot is someone to be respected and admired, but Hastings is the one I would want as a friend, certainly more on my wavelength than Poirot. While Hastings is made to look extraordinarily stupid sometimes, this is a ruse that works in making me feel better about my own ability to deduce. Hey, I may not be as smart as Poirot, but I am certainly smarter than that Hastings!

Hastings is also gallant, falls in love rather easily, with a weakness for pretty auburn-haired women. He is a gentleman from the upper crust of English society, and his being so makes is easier for Poirot to gain the confidences of members of that class who are often hostile to the strange foreigner.

Out of the 33 full-length novels that Christie wrote featuring Poirot, Hastings actually only appears in eight, though he does feature in most of the short stories involving Poirot. We see the evolution of his character - he meets the woman he loves while working on a case, marries her and moves to the Argentine for a while. And we see Poirot missing Hastings' presence during this time, not being able to talk to someone about the case at hand, and most of all missing the loyalty and support that are Hastings' trademarks.

Hastings returns however, and what a reunion they have! In Curtain, Poirot's final case, Hastings returns once more from the Argentine having buried his beloved there. He reminiscences on the old days:

It was at Styles that I had met again that strange little man, Hercule Poirot, whom I had first come across in Belgium.

How well I remembered my amazement when I had seen the limping figure with the large moustache coming up the village street.

Hercule Poirot! Since those days he had been my dearest friend; his influence had moulded my life. In company with him, in the hunting down of yet another murderer, I had met my wife, the truest and sweetest companion any man could have had.

There is Arthur Hastings for you - great friend, great husband, great person.


  1. Wow so amazing! I loved this write-up. You have Hastings pegged alright and I too would rather be friends with him that Mr. Gray Cells lol And talk about coincidences. I almost did Ms. Marple as my character connection this week but instead did Nancy Drew lol You can read my write-up at Reading the Rainbow

    Great job!

  2. I read a lot of Agatha Christie when I was a teenager, but I've forgotten everything. I don't remember Hastings at all! :-/ Maybe I only read the Poirot books that he wasn't in; it's not like my little library had a huge selection of Christie. I do know what you mean about Poirot and his little grey cells being intimidating. I always relate more to the sidekick than the brilliant detective! Great post!

  3. This is great tribute to a sometimes neglected character. I agree that he would be the better chap to have a chat with - Poirot would leave me feeling like an idiot. I just re-read Mysterious Affair at Styles and I did enjoy what Hastings brought to the story

  4. Great choice for a character to highlight! I've always loved Hastings much more than Holmes' Watson. He was amazing in Curtain, which is a book that brings me to tears each time I read it.

  5. Good choice!
    I never liked Poirot. Arthur Hastings is much more likeable.

  6. Book Mole, just click the Mr. Linky logo on my post to see all the links. I edited my post to explain what to do and why I changed it. I apologize for not doing that in the first place.

  7. +JMJ+

    He certainly sounds great! I've read only a couple of Agatha Christie novels, and he wasn't in either of them. (They weren't Poirot mysteries, I'm afraid!) But he does seem very endearing, a great foil for someone as cerebral and "foreign" as Poirot. I'm glad that he got a happy ending and a reunion with his old friend.

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  9. I say! Arthur Hastings! well.. I say! :) Isn't he great with his somewhat naive nature? I adore his portrayal both in the books and on screen. thank you for a great choice and an interesting post! i enjoyed it so much! Captain Hastings always makes me smile!

  10. I am ashamed to have not read a Poirot novel. I love watching the adaptations on TV. I love all Agatha Christie adaptations. I love Hastings in the programme too. What a great choice! Yours is my favourite pick this week.

  11. Reading the Rainbow - I love Miss Marple too, and I almost chose her as well! And Nancy Drew is one of my favorites.

    Jen G - I read Agatha Christie when I was a teen too, and then took a bit of a hiatus from her. Now, I am rediscovering her work, and enjoy her even more.

    Bernardette - I agree, Hastings has been often neglected. I enjoy the Poirot books that he is in very much.

    Kals - Curtain was so good, I was in tears too! That's one book I won't re-read in a long time, it is just so sad to see Poirot so frail and sick, though sharp.

    Sullivan McPig - Poirot is a great detective but it probably would be hard to be around him all day!

    Enbrethiliel - Hastings is indeed a great foil to Poirot. And, I look forward to Locus Focus!

    Booklover - your project sounds very interesting, I'll get in touch.

    Daria - You got it, I say :) Hugh Fraser was so perfect as Hastings, such a complement to David Suchet's Poirot. I can picture only him when I think of Hastings..

    Becky - Why, thanks! I love David Suchet's Poirot and the newer Miss Marple adaptations too. I look forward to the latest ones to be aired here in the US next month!

  12. An excellent choice for your write-up, as this kind of characters usually gets neglected..I love Poirot's cases, though I haven't read all..Nice post.

  13. It's taken 25 years, but Captain Hastings has finally solved a mystery! Hugh Fraser, 64, the man famous for playing the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot’s naive but endearing partner in crime, has emerged from behind his television persona and written Harm, a suspense novel all his own.

  14. It's taken 25 years, but Captain Hastings has finally solved a mystery! Hugh Fraser, 64, the man famous for playing the Belgian detective Hercule Poirot’s naive but endearing partner in crime, has emerged from behind his television persona and written Harm, a suspense novel all his own.