Difference Between Protagonist and Antagonist

Main Difference – Protagonist vs. Antagonist

Protagonist and Antagonist are two essential roles in any story. Though you may not be familiar with these two words, you must definitely know by now that every story has a main character or a hero and a main villain who always works against the main character. Protagonist and Antagonist are the two terms we use in literature to introduce these two essential characters. So, the main difference between protagonist and antagonist is that protagonist is the central character around whom the story is woven, and the antagonist is the opposing force of the protagonist.

Who is a Protagonist

The protagonist is the central character in a story. The story is generally revolved around a problem faced by the protagonist and how he or she finds a solution to this problem. So when I say that the protagonist is the main character of the story, many of you might think that the protagonist is the good guy who narrates the story. But this is not always so. Remember that,

Protagonist is not always the narrator of the story. Protagonist’s story can be told from a different point of view.

Example: In ‘The Great Gatsby’ by F. Scott Fitzgerald Nick Carraway is the narrator, but the protagonist is Jay Gatsby. In ‘Sherlock Holmes,’ Sherlock Holmes is the protagonist, the story is narrated by Dr. Watson.

Protagonist is not always good and admirable. He can be villainous wicked. Evil protagonists are known by the term, anti-hero.

Example: Humbert, the protagonist ‘Lolita’ by Vladimir Nabokov, Macbeth in Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’

A story can have more than one protagonist. This can be generally seen in novels written in multiple point of views.

Example: The Game of Thrones series by George RR Martin

Difference Between protagonist and antagonist
Snow White is the protagonist in ‘Snow White and Seven Dwarfs’

Some notable protagonists in the  popular literature include Frodo in J.R.R Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy, Harry Potter in J.K Rowling’s ‘Harry Potter’ series and Katniss Everdeen in Suzanne Collins’ ‘The  Hunger Games’ Trilogy.

Who is an  Antagonist

The antagonist is the chief opposing force of the protagonist. The antagonist is the obstruction that stands in the way of the protagonist and achieving his ultimate goal. But, remember that antagonist doesn’t necessarily have to be one character. It can be a group of characters, an institution, a concept that stands in the way of the protagonist. Social restrictions and traditions, Feelings like doubt and jealousy or even a force like a storm can be the antagonists in a story.

Though antagonists are generally portrayed as dark, wicked characters,  they can be good characters who try to stand in the way of the villainous protagonist as well. For example, consider the character of Macduff in Macbeth who fights against Macbeth, the anti-hero. Just as a story cannot exist without a protagonist, a conflict cannot exist without an antagonist. So, an antagonist is necessary to every story.

The wolf in Red Riding Hood, the wicked fairy in Sleeping Beauty, Captain Hook in Peter Pan are some popular antagonists or villains from children’s literature.

main difference - protagonist vs antagonist

Evil Queen is the antagonist in ‘Snow White and Seven Dwarfs’

Difference Between Protagonist and Antagonist


A story is woven around the protagonist and his quest to achieve his goal.

Antagonist is the chief opposing force in the story. 


Protagonists are portrayed as morally correct and upright characters.

Antagonists are portrayed as villains.

protagonist vs antagonist -comparision

Image Courtesy:

“Snow white disney” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia

“Evil Queen Grimhilde” by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia

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