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In literature, a main character is called a protagonist; this is the person who undergoes a crisis, an “agon” (battle), and who changes in character as the plot progresses through certain stages – introduction, first complication, development, denouement, etc. – until the main character has resolved the conflict. Other “characters” fill the story – the antagonist, support characters of various kinds, family members, etc. – to tell the story (the plot). In realistic literature, the characters, whether important or peripheral, follow believable psychological patterns; the “rounded character” is explored psychologically with thoroughness: hopes, dreams, fears, childhood influences, internal decision-making mechanisms, etc. – so that by the work’s end the reader has a full-length portrait of the “rounded” character. In Bildungsromanen, for example, the rounded character goes from childhood-adolescence to maturity. In contrast, the peripheral characters are often flat, stereotypical, and not “fleshed out.” There is a dramatic term, “Horatio character” (named after a character in Hamlet, for the character whose function is to receive the rounded characters’ thought in the form of dialogic conversation. In novels, there are doctors, postmen, drivers, etc. who are merely their occupations.
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