While a protagonist tends to supply a storyline with a person that the audience can identify with or "root for" as they strive to achieve some goal, the antagonist is who or what creates the tension or conflict that makes that goal harder to reach. Without an antagonist, many stories would seem to lack a sense of drama or action, and the protagonist wouldn't face any challenges in reaching their goal. The antagonist agitates or disrupts the protagonist, and therefore introduces conflict to a plot.
In a typical narrative this conflict brings about a plot's climax and generally serves as the premise for much of the story's action, which makes a narrative engaging.
Conflicts brought about by an antagonist can also test the morals and beliefs of characters, which shows the audience who the main characters really are and what they stand for. Sign In Sign Up. Teach your students to analyze literature like LitCharts does. Detailed explanations, analysis, and citation info for every important quote on LitCharts. The original text plus a side-by-side modern translation of every Shakespeare play. LitCharts From the creators of SparkNotes, something better.
Download this entire guide PDF. Antagonist Definition What is an antagonist? Some additional key details about antagonists: Not all stories that have a protagonist necessarily have an antagonist, but an antagonist can't exist without a protagonist. The conflict that arises from an antagonist's opposition to a protagonist might not always appear as an explicit confrontation as it does between the Queen and Snow White. Sometimes, an antagonist might challenge a protagonist in other ways, such as through a competitive rivalry that doesn't involve any violence.
While the antagonist might frequently be "bad" or "evil," this isn't always the case. Antagonists can be just as complicated as protagonists, with nuanced motivations or beliefs. Antagonist Pronunciation Here's how to pronounce antagonist: The villain antagonist is the most common type of antagonist.
A character who is a villain antagonist has evil or selfish intentions and wants to stop or hinder the protagonist, who—in a conventional narrative—will likely be "the good guy. So are the antagonists in most superhero and action stories. It's important to remember that a villain is simply one type of antagonist, and not all villains are antagonists. A hero antagonist is a character whose intentions are noble, and their main objective is to stop or obstruct the actions of the protagonist—for whatever reason.
If a story contains a villain protagonist, chances are good that there will be a hero antagonist attempting to thwart the villain's plans. The presence of a hero antagonist, however, does not always mean the protagonist must be a villain. Because a hero antagonist is not very common, it is often used to challenge a reader's assumptions about moral choices or storytelling conventions.
The antagonist of a story may be a group of people rather than just one person. In a war film, for instance, the antagonist may be an entire country. Or in a movie like Heathers, which is a dark comedy about social dynamics in high school, the antagonist is a clique made up of popular girls who are all named Heather which is why the group is referred to as "the Heathers". It's possible for a story to have an antagonist that isn't a human or a group of humans at all.
In Jaws for example, the antagonist is a killer shark. In fact, antagonists don't technically even have to be alive. In the "disaster film" genre—which takes an impending or ongoing disaster as its main source of conflict—sometimes the natural disasters themselves serve as the primary antagonists such as earthquakes, tidal waves, or an asteroid hitting Earth.
Some would even argue that societal customs that thwart a protagonist can be antagonists. Some writers use the term "internal antagonist" to describe a situation in which it is an internal flaw or issue of the protagonist that primarily stands in his or her way. For instance, it's possible to argue that in the Jane Austen novel Emma that it is Emma's own confidence in her ability and right to meddle in the lives of others that primarily stands in her way.
While there are other characters in the novel who inconvenience Emma in some way, ultimately the conflicts in the novel are driven by Emma's own actions and the obstacles she has to overcome are within herself and not posed by anyone else.
That said, some people might object to the term "internal antagonist" and instead argue that a novel like Emma actually doesn't have a true antagonist at all and instead just has a dynamic , complicated protagonist. Examples of a Complicated Antagonist There are so many different ways for an antagonist to operate that not every antagonist you encounter will fall into one of the categories described above.
Complicated Antagonist in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein The narrative of Frankenstein is about a man named Victor Frankenstein who creates a monster, which is referred to as the Creature. Literary Terms Commonly Confused with Antagonist There are several closely related terms that are often confused with antagonist, but there are critical differences among them that are important to know in order to better understand how to identify an antagonist.
A villain is an evil character in a story. Of course, as we now know, not all antagonists are evil or villains. You might hear people use the terms "villain" and "antagonist" interchangeably, but this isn't correct. Villains are often antagonists but not always. In order to locate the antagonist, look for the story's primary conflict and ask where that conflict originated.
A foil is a character that contrasts with another character in order to better highlight their defining traits. For instance, Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter are two ambitious characters who make drastically different choices in the Harry Potter series of books. Harry fights evil, or Lord Voldemort, and Draco joins him—comparing these two characters focuses their good and bad traits.
Lord Voldemort is the primary antagonist in this series, although the protagonist, Harry, runs into many other obstacles including Draco along the way.
While an antagonist will often appear as a foil to the protagonist, this is not always the case. A protagonist might have many foils and only one primary antagonist. An antihero is a type of protagonist that might do the right thing, but they often do so for the wrong reasons.
The lack most of the conventional hero traits honesty, courage, integrity, etc and they tend to be driven by their own self-interest and not a desire to behave morally. An antihero might initially look like the villain, and therefore, one might be inclined to believe they're the antagonist, but the key difference is that an antihero will still drive the plot forward and have to overcome obstacles presented by other antagonistic forces.
Antagonist Examples Antagonists can come in many different forms. It is common to refer to an antagonist as a villain the bad guy , against whom a hero the good guy fights in order to save himself or others.
In some cases, an antagonist may exist within the protagonist that causes an inner conflict or a moral conflict inside his mind. Generally, an antagonist appears as a foil to the main character, embodying qualities that are in contrast with the qualities of the main character. Antigone, the protagonist, struggles against King Creon, the antagonist, in her effort to give her brother a respectable burial. Iago stands as one of the most notorious villains of all time, having spent all of his time plotting against Othello, the protagonist, and his wife Desdemona.
Through his evil schemes, Iago convinces Othello that his wife has been cheating on him, and even convinces him to kill his own wife despite her being faithful to him. The thing that separates Iago from other antagonists is that we do not really know why he wants to destroy Othello. In his novel Dr. Hyde , Robert Louis Stevenson explores the theme of doppelganger in which Hyde is not only an evil double of the honorable Dr.
Jekyll, but his antagonist. Jekyll creates Hyde by a series of scientific experiments in order to prove his statement:. He means that a human soul is a mixture of evil and good.
The term “antagonist” comes from the Greek word antagonistēs, which means “opponent,” “competitor,” or “rival.” It is common to refer to an antagonist as a villain (the bad guy), against whom a hero (the good guy) fights in order to save himself or others.
Definition of Antagonist In literature, an antagonist is a character, group of characters, or other force that presents an obstacle or is in direct conflict with the protagonist. The antagonist is most often one character who has a goal that opposes the protagonist’s goal and will try to stop the protagonist from getting what he or she wants.
In a story, the antagonist (pronounced an-TAG-oh-nist) is the opposite of the protagonist, or main character. Typically, this is a villain of some kind, but not always! Clear definition and great examples of Antagonist. Literary antagonist synonyms, Literary antagonist pronunciation, Literary antagonist translation, English dictionary definition of Literary antagonist. n. 1. One who opposes and contends against another; an adversary. 2. The principal character in opposition to the protagonist or hero of a narrative or.
Antagonist. An antagonist stands in the way of the protagonist’s goals in a story, but they are not always evil or out to destroy the protagonist; sometimes, they simply get in the way. They share a lot of the same traits of protagonists, including bravery, intelligence, driven by a goal, and fierce loyalty. Video: Antagonist in Literature: Definition & Examples In this lesson, we will explore the antagonist in literature. The antagonist is the opposing force that brings conflict and is instrumental in the development of the protagonist, or main character.