Difference between Protagonist and Antagonist

Updated on October 20, 2018

A story wouldn’t be complete and as interesting without any conflict between the main characters. Oftentimes, these characters have contrasting goals and employ different means of achieving them. They are identified as the protagonist and the antagonist. These characters often have several encounters within a story wherein you’ll see their differences in terms of traits and beliefs. This article will help you identify how the protagonist and the antagonist are unlike each other.

Summary Table

ProtagonistAntagonist
The main character who supports a cause or resolves the conflict in the storyThe one who opposes or creates conflict for the protagonist
Often the “good guy” in the story but at times also identified as the anti-heroOften the “bad guy” in the story
Audience or readers can empathize with this character since a lot of information is given about him/herThere is less empathy since not much background information is provided for this character

Definitions

Harry Potter
A protagonist – Harry Potter

The protagonist is essentially the main character around whom the entire narrative revolves. The word “protagonist” came from the Greek word protagonistes, which means “the chief character.” A protagonist is usually a person with a certain cause and is often the “good guy.” Occasionally he/she may also be bad, like an anti-hero.

Lord Voldermort
An antagonist – Lord Voldermort

The antagonist is the character who is averse to the protagonist. The word “antagonist” came from the Greek word antagonistes, which means “competitor or opponent.” An antagonist is usually the person who rivals the chief character and establishes the problem or the conflict.

Protagonist vs Antagonist

The main difference between a protagonist and an antagonist is that the protagonist is often regarded as the hero of the story, while the antagonist is regarded as the villain. Both characters play essential roles in the unfolding of events. Though most of the time the protagonist plays the “good guy,” there are also stories where he or she is not always virtuous and admirable. In this case, the protagonist is also villainous and is called the anti-hero. Nonetheless, an antagonist would still exist in these particular stories as the one who is against the anti-hero. In the end, anti-heroes still champion a certain cause even though they lack the conventional heroic attributes.

The protagonist is sometimes the narrator of the story and the audience is often able to empathize deeply with this character. The story revolves around a problem encountered by the protagonist and how he or she is able to find a solution. A lot of background information is usually given about the protagonist, which is why the audience develops an affinity for him or her.

On the other hand, the antagonist is the character who stands in the way of the protagonist achieving his or her ultimate goal. This character is the one who creates conflict and makes life harder for the hero. The audience tends to have less empathy for this character since not as much background information is provided for the antagonist.

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