Guide to Literary Terms

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What is the definition of antagonist?

The definition of antagonist is a major character whose goals and motivations are in conflict with those of the main character, or protagonist.

Antagonist

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Last Updated on September 12, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 157

In a narrative text, an antagonist is a major character who is in conflict with the main character, or protagonist. Just as a narrative can have multiple protagonists, it can also have multiple antagonists. 

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Antagonist derives from the Greek word antagōnizesthai, meaning “to struggle against.”

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Typically, the antagonist is viewed as the villain, and the protagonist is viewed as the hero. However, if the protagonist is villainous, the antagonist is typically heroic. The novel A Separate Peace is a good example of this, with Gene as the villainous protagonist and Finny as the virtuous antagonist. 

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Latest answer posted July 7, 2011, 1:03 pm (UTC)

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Antagonists from literature include Gabriel Grimes from James Baldwin’s Go Tell It on the Mountain, who opposes the protagonist, John Grimes; Samuel Parris from Maryse Conde’s I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem, who opposes Tituba; and Baron Danglers, Fernand Mondego, and M. Villefort from Alexander Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo, who oppose Edmond Dantès.

see: protagonist

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