Protagonist and Antagonist in Allegory
Allegorical tales or fables have both a main character, and their shadow, the interplay between these poles gives life and meaning to the fable, but more importantly this dynamic serves as a useful template to handling life’s problems (mystical or other wise).
The Protagonist or main character is the central or main figure of a story. It is not necessarily clear what being this central figure exactly entails. The terms protagonist, main character and hero are variously and rarely well defined and depending on the source may denote different concepts. The word “protagonist” derives from the Greek πρωταγωνιστής protagonistes, “one who plays the first part, chief actor.The term protagonist is defined to be either always synonymous with the term main character, or it is defined as a different concept, in which case a single character still may and usually will serve the function of both the protagonist and main character, or the functions may be split.In classical and later theater the protagonist is the character undergoing a dramatic change peripeteia, both of his own character and external circumstances, with the plot either going from order to chaos, as in a tragedy, with a reversal of fortune bringing about the downfall of the protagonist, usually an exceptional individual, as a result of a tragic flaw hamartia in his personality; or from chaos to order, as in a comedy, with the protagonist going from misfortune to prosperity and from obscurity to prominence.A story about an exceptional character being a driving force behind the plot, facing an opponent the antagonist and undergoing an important change like it is the case with the protagonist may be told from the perspective of a different character who may, but will not necessarily also be the narrator. In such cases it may be helpful to define the character through whose perspective the plot is followed as the main character, the main character having here a separate function from the protagonist.The principal opponent of the protagonist is a character known as the antagonist who represents or creates obstacles that the protagonist must overcome. As with protagonists, there may be more than one antagonist in a story. Note that the term antagonist in this context is much more recent than the term protagonist, and rests on the same misconception as the use of protagonist to mean proponent.Sometimes, a work will initially highlight a particular character, as though they were the protagonist, and then unexpectedly dispose of that character as a dramatic device. Such a character is called a false protagonist.When the work contains subplots, these may have different protagonists from the main plot. In some novels, protagonist may be impossible to pick out, because the plots do not permit clear identification of one as the main plot, as in Alexander Solzhenitsyns The First Circle, depicting a variety of characters imprisoned and living in a gulag camp.An antagonist, “opponent, competitor, rival”is a character or group of characters, or, sometimes an institution of a happening who represents the opposition against which the protagonists must contend. In the classic style of story where in the action consists of a hero fighting a villain, the two can be regarded as protagonist and antagonist, respectively. Contrary to popular belief, the antagonist is not always the villain, but simply those who oppose the main character.Writers have also created more complex situations. In some instances, a story is told from the villains point of view, and any hero trying to stop the villain can be regarded as an antagonist. Such antagonists are usually police officers or other law enforcement officials. In the film K-19: The Widowmaker, an American film about a Soviet Cold War submarine crew, the crew, enemies of the United States, are depicted as protagonists, creating something of a paradox -as very often the American film industry tends to depict the forces of the United States as the people that fight for “good” and “justice”, in opposition to Russia especially the former Soviet Union being the antagonists who often have maniacal and/or malicious intentions e.g. world domination. Sometimes, antagonists and protagonists may overlap, depending on what their ultimate objectives are considered to be.