From LitWiki

An antagonist is a character or a group of characters which stand in opposition to the protagonist or the main character.[1] The term is derived from the Greek word antagonistes meaning rival, opponent, or competitor.[2] The antagonist's primary goal in any piece of literature is to create conflict for the main characters. The antagonist opposes the protagonist's ventures, and therefore creates conflict for the story. Conflict is essential to the furthering of the plot.

The antagonist is the opponent to the main character. Opponent refers to someone else or to the other side. This word implies more active opposition, especially in a struggle for control or power. Adversary usually suggest outright hostility in the conflict.[3]

An example of an antagonist in film includes Darth Vader from the Star Wars film series. Darth Vader is the opposing character to the protagonists Luke, Han, and Leia.

Examples in Literature

In William Shakespeare's Othello, Iago is the primary villain who spends much of his time plotting against the protagonist, Othello. He is able to convince Othello that his wife was cheating on him. He later convinces him to kill his wife. In Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird, Bob Ewell is the primary antagonist. Ewell is convinced that Mayella was guilty of the crime, and spends much of the time ensuring that someone else gets the blame.

Examples in Film

Like literature, films include villains in order to further the plot and create conflict for the main characters. An example of an antagonist in film would be Lex Luthor in the Superman film series.

Main and Secondary Antagonists

There are two types of antagonists that can appear in literature. Main antagonists, or primary antagonists, are the central villain in a story. The secondary antagonists act as a threat to the protagonist, but not to the extent of the primary antagonist. An example of a secondary antagonist would be General Tarkin in Star Wars.

See also

Literary Terms



  • Kuiper, Kathleen.Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature,1987
  • Randall, Bernice.When is a Pig a Hog.Patice Hall, 1991
  • Siepman, Katherine.Benet's III Edition Reader's Encyclopedia,1987