Sidekicks: A study of companions in eighteenth- and nineteenth -century American novels

Ann Marie B Cameron, Purdue University


This study examines the role of the sidekick in the following American novels: The Female Quixote (1752) by Charlotte Lennox, Female Quixotism (1801) by Tabitha Tenney, Modern Chivalry (1792–1797) by Hugh Henry Brackenridge, Paul Felton (1822) by Richard Henry Dana, Koningsmarke (1823) and The Dutchman's Fireside (1831), both by James Kirke Paulding, Horse-Shoe Robinson (1835) by John Pendleton Kennedy, George Balcombe (1836) by Nathaniel Beverley Tucker, Lafitte (1836) by Joseph Holt Ingraham, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (1838) by Edgar Allan Poe, The Scarlet Letter (1850) by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884) by Mark Twain. The sidekick has a long tradition, going back to such epic works as The Iliad and Gilgamesh, but the character appears in one of its most celebrated forms in Cervantes' Don Quixote. Don Quixote and Sancho Panza not only provide a prototype of the master and sidekick, but they directly influence both English and American novels. In the American novels being considered, sidekicks transform from direct imitations of Sancho Panza into mentors, rustic scouts, or even daemonic/demonic characters bent on harming their masters or mistresses. In these forms, the sidekick raises concerns about education and miseducation of the hero, initiation into adulthood, and the role of the trickster, masquerade, and deception in the formation of character. The sidekick may also appear as multiple, specialized characters in the same work. Mikhail Bakhtin's analysis of heteroglossia in the novel helps explain the important dialogic, thematic, generic, and narrative functions the sidekick provides. The development of the sidekick figure also roughly parallels concerns with the nature of authority during both the American Revolution and the Civil War and challenges the patriarchal authority of both the father and the southern Cavalier. Sidekicks begin to assume more responsibility and authority as they move farther and farther away from the mere functionaries and servants of earlier novels. ^




Major Professors: G. Richard Thompson, Purdue University, Cheryl Z. Oreovicz, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Literature, American

Off-Campus Purdue Users:
To access this dissertation, please log in to our
proxy server