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.