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In this lesson, we will look at the term ‘protagonist.’ The protagonist is the main character in a piece of literature. We even see protagonists in popular movies.

Definition of a Protagonist

A protagonist is the main character in a work of literature or movie. With many characters surrounding the protagonist, finding that main character can sometimes be confusing. How do we identify him or her?A protagonist generally experiences some sort of change or transformation in his or her character throughout the story. This is the key defining characteristic of a protagonist. Also, the story focuses on the protagonist. He or she is not a character that shows up once or twice and then disappears. In addition, the reader identifies with the protagonist, almost journeying through the story with him or her.

Events in the story bring about the changes the protagonist experiences, for better or worse. Protagonists deal with conflict, or difficulties, which they must conquer. Often, the conflict is caused by an antagonist, or opposing force in the story. Antagonists oppose the resolution the protagonist is seeking, or the resolution of the conflict in the story.

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In its most simple form, the protagonist is working to solve the problem, while the antagonist is working against finding a solution.

Examples of Protagonists

Let’s take a look at some examples of protagonists.Take the movie Star Wars, for instance.

George Lucas does a marvelous job developing the character of Luke Skywalker, a farm boy with a yearning for a life beyond his mundane existence. Due to the death of his aunt and uncle, he is compelled to join forces, no pun intended, with Obi-wan Kenobi, a former Jedi knight. Through a series of well-known events, Luke matures as he learns the ways of the force. The main antagonist in the story is Darth Vader, who turns out to be Luke’s own father and a master of the dark side of the force. The two are in conflict until Luke eventually wins, even restoring Darth Vader to the right side of the force before he dies. Luke moves beyond the role of farm boy to Jedi master!How about an example from a work of literature?In the short story, ‘The Most Dangerous Game,’ by Richard Connell, the protagonist, Rainsford, is a big game hunter who falls off a yacht and finds himself on a sinister island. The antagonist, General Zaroff, is a madman who hunts the most challenging ‘game’ of all – men.

In a battle of skill and survival, Rainsford, who is armed only with a knife, must survive Zaroff’s hunt. Zaroff, of course, has both a gun and dogs, so the test is certainly unfair. Either the protagonist or the antagonist can win, and in the end, it is implied that Rainsford kills Zaroff. It is safe to say that Rainsford has learned how it feels to be on the other side of the hunt; thus, his character goes through a transformation.

Lesson Summary

Every good story, whether it is read or seen in a film, needs a protagonist. A protagonist is the main character in a work of literature or movie. The reader identifies with the protagonist, and the protagonist brings a resolution to the conflict in the story.

Protagonists not only seek resolution, but they undergo some sort of change as well. From the beginning of the story to the end, the protagonist transforms.

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