Who is the Antagonist in a Story

Knowing who an antagonist is in a story lets you understand the characters of a story better. Now, as you all know, a story is built up of a number of elements such as plot, mood, setting, themes, and characters. Of these elements, characters are very important to a story as a story is built around the actions of each and every character. Even actions of the most minor characters have a say in a plot of a story. All these characters are the ones who take the story to different paths. The types of characters that make up a story are main characters and minor characters. The main character of a story is what we call protagonist. Protagonist helps you to decide what to expect from the story. While the protagonist is the main focus of the story, a story cannot be complete without an antagonist. Who is an antagonist? In this article, we will first talk about the role of antagonist in stories and then move on to discuss the antagonists of different stories.

Definition of Antagonist

The antagonist in a story is the opposing force of the protagonist. Now, we know that protagonist is the leading character of the story. Usually, a story is about the journey this protagonist takes. In this journey, he or she meets obstacles that test him or her. An antagonist is the force, who usually puts these obstacles in the protagonist’s path. Did you notice the word ‘force’ that is used to describe the opposing factor for a protagonist? We use ‘force’ without using ‘individual’ or ‘person’ to describe antagonist for a simple reason. The reason is that an antagonist can be a character or a  person as well as an outside element, a force of nature. For example, think that there is a story where a man is finding his way home amidst a storm. He is going through immense trouble finding his way. In this scenario, the antagonist is the storm. It is the force that presents obstacles to the protagonist. At the same time, an antagonist can be another individual. Think about classic story themes. In those stories, we often see a villain. This is the person who is bent on destroying the life of the protagonist. In such situations, this villain is the antagonist.

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Examples of Antagonist

Now, that we have understood who an antagonist is, let us focus on finding some examples from the world of literature for antagonists.

First, let us consider the famous work of J. R. R. Tolkien, the Lord of the Rings. In Lord of the Rings, the main antagonist is Sauron, the dark lord who is planning to get back his ring and destroy the world by spreading darkness and evil.  However, you must have noticed that Sauron is not the only antagonist in this story. There are orcs, there is Saruman, there are goblins and many more creatures who stand in the way of Frodo and other heroes of the story. They all are antagonists as they are the opposing powers that stand in the way of Frodo.

When we look at the novel,’Great Gatsby’ by Scott Fitzgerald, the antagonist is Tom Buchanan. The protagonist is Jay Gatsby around whose life the whole story is woven. His main obstacle in the story is Tom Buchanan, who is the husband of the woman he loves.

If you take “Harry Potter” by J.K. Rowling, Harry is the protagonist of the story while Lord Voldemort is the antagonist. He is the main negative force that makes Harry’s life miserable. He is the reason for Harry’s life being what it is.

As apparent from the above examples, it should be now clear to you that every story has a negative force or an antagonist. Even the most simple folktales, children’s stories have antagonists. If we take the story of Snow White, for instance, Snow White’s wicked stepmother plays the role of the antagonist. If we look at the story of Red Riding Hood, the wolf is the antagonist.


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Antagonist is the opposing force of the protagonist of a story. This opposing force can be another character, or it can be a natural element like a storm, an earthquake or the fear that is in the mind of the protagonist. Without an antagonist, a story has nothing to tell. This is simply because without an antagonist a protagonist cannot grow. The only reason a story becomes interesting is because there is a clash between a protagonist and an antagonist.

Images Courtesy:

  1. Sauron by Katie Tegtmeyer  (CC BY 2.0)
  2. Lord Voldemort by Kevindooley (CC BY 2.0)

About the Author: Hasa

Hasanthi is a seasoned content writer and editor with over 8 years of experience. Armed with a BA degree in English and a knack for digital marketing, she explores her passions for literature, history, culture, and food through her engaging and informative writing.

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