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Who are the protagonist and antagonist?

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tcbjp11 | Student, College Freshman | eNoter

Posted July 7, 2011 at 9:29 AM via web

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Who are the protagonist and antagonist?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 7, 2011 at 1:03 PM (Answer #1)

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If this is meant to be a general exploration of the topic, definition of terms would be essential here.  The protagonist is the central character or figure in a work.  It is usually through their eyes or their perception that the author wants us to understand the central conflict of the work.  The protagonist is sometimes likable, and sometimes demonstrates behaviors that are not entirely likable, but they are our "guides" for lack of a better term.  For example, in the drama Oedipus by Sophocles, the protagonist is the lead character for whom the title of the play is derived.  The antagonist is someone who, in their name, "antagonizes" the protagonist.  They are the individual against whom the protagonist is set against.  The antagonist "opposes the hero or protagonist in drama."  For example, Abigail Williams in the antagonist in Arthur Miller's work, The Crucible.  She operates as the antagonizing force to John Proctor, who is the drama's protagonist.  In distilling both characterizations, I would look for the central conflict in the work in question and which characters stand on which side of said conflict.

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bigdreams1 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted August 18, 2011 at 9:25 AM (Answer #1)

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I don't know if you are asking for someone to identify the protagonist and antagonist in a particular piece of literature, or if you are just asking for the definition of the terms.  If you would  like someone to help you find who they are in some work you are reading, you need to identify that work for us so we can help you.

If, however, you are just looking for definitions, a protagonist is not simply the good guy, and the antagonist isn't just the bad guy. They often take on those roles in literature...but since a good character has shades of good and bad, we can't just give them white or black hats.

A protagonist is the character whose struggle we are following during throughout the plot of the story. The antagonist is the person/thing that gets in the way, or tries to block the protagonist from reaching his or her goal.

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gototheshop | eNoter

Posted July 7, 2011 at 4:58 PM (Answer #2)

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Conflict is generally thought to be at the heart of engaging literature and drama. For conflict, you need a clash. Thus, the protagonist goes head to head against the antagonist. This importance of conflict in tragic literature was first recorded by Ancient Greek scholar, Aristotle.

This clash need not necessarily be between two people. There can be a number of antagonists who the protaganist must deal with. Society can be an antagonist. Even, the protagonist's own weaknesses or doubts can be a form of antagonist. Where there is conflict in literature and drama, there is a protagonist and antagonism. Sometimes, people, society and the self can all be antagonisms, such as in The Catcher in the Rye, by JD Salinger.

Thus, it can be said that the protagonist is the main character of the book, and the antagonists are all the impediments who s/he faces. Most works tend to have one main antagonist or "nemesis" which gives the narrative a sense of personal contest. In The Catcher in the Rye, however, although Holden conflicts against a number of people, it is ultimately society as a whole, as seen through the prism of his own mental problems, that are his antagonist.


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pnil10swa | Student, Undergraduate | Honors

Posted July 21, 2011 at 10:28 AM (Answer #3)

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pennmurray | Student, Grade 9 | eNoter

Posted August 18, 2011 at 8:33 AM (Answer #2)

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protagonist is the good guy. and the antagonist is the bad guy, who is against the protagonist.

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