As Mary mentioned in an earlier post, the sidekick is an archetype. Within the archetype, there exist many sub-categories of sidekicks. Depending on the protagonist, the writer may choose one or more types in order to better balance the protagonist.
The foil offers an opposite to our protagonist, a character that has those strengths that the main character may not. This kind of sidekick brings balance to our story. For instance, Sherlock Holmes was a fascinating character. Yet, without Dr. Watson, would readers have been as enamored? Dr. Watson provided a view of Holmes that the reader would not otherwise have, a humanizing view. Dr. Watson as sidekick provided readers with his view of Holmes, which was a much more human, vulnerable Holmes.
The resource, like the foil, has strengths the protagonist does not, but isn’t quite the opposite. Eve Dallas’ Peabody fills the resource role for Eve by being at times more vulnerable, but also strong in the face of others’ emotions or understanding of family dynamics, for example. However, she shares many of the same character traits with Eve–such as a clear focus on justice, a defined moral line, and an empathy for victims–which keep her from being a true foil. Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter series is another example of a great resource type of sidekick.
The mentor provides important guidance and advice to our protagonist. One of my favorite examples is Henry in Sue Grafton’s alphabet murder series. Henry is not a private investigator, but he does offer Kinsey a fatherly advisor, dispensing sage words at key points in the stories. Perhaps more important, Henry is someone upon whom Kinsey can depend to simply be there for her, to listen and encourage. Of course, the mentor isn’t always a sidekick, and perhaps I’m stretching here.
The protege sidekick is the character who is being trained or educated by our protagonist. The protege has a lot to learn, makes mistakes, and is likely to offer a more lighthearted or less-serious view of any given situation. My brain is refusing to give me a good example right now, but they’re out there!
This isn’t a comprehensive list, of course. As I write this, I’m realizing that although the sidekicks can be categorized in different ways, the roles are very closely related; more shades of a color than different colors altogether. Peabody is more than a protege sidekick to Eve Dallas, she’s too serious and focused. But, when she first appears, she is close to a protege. The mentor can be a resource, but I think of the mentor as being somewhat less involved in the action of the story, and more on the sidelines. Fascinating! What do you think?