Illustrated Guide to Literary Elements


Protagonist Definition: a character who pursues the primary goals of the plot of a story

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Protagonists are usually the heroes of a story, and they are driven by a particular goal or loyalty to seek out a resolution to a conflict. Protagonists are typically brave, they experience some sort of change, and they often have a flaw in their character that the reader can relate to. A protagonist usually faces an antagonist of some sort, whether it be in the form of another character, a force of nature, or their own internal doubts. These antagonists often stand in the way of the protagonist achieving their goals, and it is by overcoming these obstacles that they mature and grow by the end of the story.

In The Odyssey by Homer, Odysseus is the protagonist and hero who is fighting many obstacles to journey back home. Many of these obstacles are created by Poseidon, the antagonist who curses Odysseus’ journey home after Odysseus blinds his son, the Cyclops named Polyphemus. Sometimes a protagonist is the bad guy. For example, in The Tragedy of Richard III by William Shakespeare, Richard’s quest for power drives him to kill his nephews, imprison his brother, and marry the widow of the man he murdered. Ultimately, his antagonist is the “good guy”: the Earl of Richmond, who is later crowned Henry VII, the first of the Tudor line.

Notable Examples of Protagonist in Literature

Be sure to check out our article, Protagonist vs. Antagonist!

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•   (English) Protagonist   •   (Español) Protagonista   •   (Français) Protagoniste   •   (Deutsch) Protagonist   •   (Italiana) Protagonista   •   (Nederlands) Hoofdrolspeler   •   (Português) Protagonista   •   (עברית) דמות ראשית   •   (العَرَبِيَّة) بطل الرواية   •   (हिन्दी) नायक   •   (ру́сский язы́к) Главный Герой   •   (Dansk) Hovedperson   •   (Svenska) Protagonist   •   (Suomi) Päähenkilö   •   (Norsk) Hovedperson   •   (Türkçe) Kahraman   •   (Polski) Protagonista   •   (Româna) Protagonist   •   (Ceština) Protagonista   •   (Slovenský) Protagonista   •   (Magyar) Főszereplő   •   (Hrvatski) Protagonista   •   (български) Главен Герой   •   (Lietuvos) Protagonistas   •   (Slovenščina) Protagonist   •   (Latvijas) Protagonists   •   (eesti) Peategelane