#15. Protagonists, antagonists, and deuteragonists, oh my!

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charlotte danielson lesson plan for teaching antagonist

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Today’s literary challenge requires that you understand the concepts of a protagonist, an antagonist, and a deuteragonist. For extra information, click on the links I’ve provided. Here’s my brief summary:

All stories must have a protagonist. Without one, human readers wouldn’t be able to relate to the tale. Maybe you’ve read the Warriors series by Erin Hunter? Even though the main character in each novel is a cat, those cats are made to seem human, so that human readers can relate to them. Therefore the Warriors books do have a protagonist, even though their protagonists are not human.

Not all stories have an antagonist. For example, in Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet, a boy crash lands an airplane in the wilderness. This is a classic theme of man against nature. There is no human or human-like enemy, therefore, there is no true antagonist.

Not all stories have a deuteragonist. However, there are many famous deuteragonists you might recognize: Batman’s best friend, Robin, is a one; Luke Skywalker’s buddie, Han Solo, is another; Shrek’s companion, Donkey, is a third example. To figure out if your novel has a deuteragonist, ask yourself this question: who does the protagonist hang out with? That’s your deuteragonist.

Be aware that, by definition, there cannot be multiple deuteragonists. So in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, the dwarves are companions to the hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, but they do not constitute a “collective” deuteragonist. One could argue that either Thorin or Gandalf is the deuteragonist, but such a thesis would be tricky to prove.

For today’s literary challenge, name the protagonist, antagonist, and deuteragonist in the novel you’re reading. If your novel is missing an antagonist or a deuteragonist, you must explain why/how. Here are a couple of examples:

EXAMPLE #1:

  1. I’m reading Hatchet by Gary Paulsen.
  2. The protagonist is Brian. The whole story is about him.
  3. There is no antagonist BECAUSE the conflict in this story is man against nature, not man against man.
  4. It’s possible that the pilot of the airplane is the deuteragonist, but he dies in the early part of the book, so maybe not.

EXAMPLE #2:

  1. I’m reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling.
  2. The protagonist is Harry Potter and that’s also where the book gets its title.
  3. The antagonist is Lord Voldemort, but he’s hiding behind Professor Quirrell, possessing Quirrell’s body, because he doesn’t have a body of his own.
  4. The deuteragonist is Ron Weasley, because he’s really Harry’s best friend.

FYI: Hermione is the tritagonist–the third most important character to the plot.

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33 responses »

  1. Actually, there is always an antagonist. Even if it isn’t a person. In “Hatchet” the antagonist is the wilderness Brian is stranded in because it is opposing him, and creating problems for his survival. And an antagonist isn’t necessarily the “bad guy”, just the opposing force to the protagonist. Protagonists AND antagonists are necessary for any interesting story. There’s the Man vs. man story, which is two or more sentient forces opposing each other, (the forces don’t need to be human, just personified.) There is also Man vs. nature, like Brian in “Hatchet”. It’s usually a survival story. The last one is Man vs. self, which means the story focuses on someone fighting an inner turmoil. The new movie, “Inside Out” is a good example of this. If you haven’t seen it, you should watch it. It’s really good, and has a lot of fun jokes.

  2. A Christmas Carol BY: Charles Dickens
    PROTAGONIST: Ebinezer Scrooge is the protagonist because the whole book is about him changing his thoughts about Christmas.
    ANTAGONIST: there is no true antagonist i guess that you could say that it could be the ghousts of the Christmas’ but other than those there is none.
    DEUTERAGONIST: I would have to say that Jacob Marley would have had to be the deuteragonist because he was the business partness before he past away.

  3. Im reading Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
    1: the protagonist is Robinson Crusoe
    2: there is no atagonist he is by himself in the jungle
    3: i guess the deuteragonist would be a sailor named Xury but he died

    • I’m familiar enough with Robinson Crusoe to know that your deuteragonist is Friday. You might consider Xury for the “static” character, even though he sort-of changes by dying. He certainly wouldn’t be the deuteragonist, though. He’s not important enough.

  4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

    1.) the protagonist is Elizabeth Bennet
    2.) there really isnt an antagonist but i would say that the snobbish-class conciousness is.
    3.) there isnt a dueteragonist in this story because the story is about a family and is based around marriage and Elizabeth Bennet, no sidekick

    • Actually, Charlotte is a deuteragonist in some respects. She vie’s for the attention of one of Elizabeth’s suitors; she offers a place for Elizabeth to stay in unchaparoned solitude so she can get to know Mr. Darcy better; she’s also Elizabeth’s very best friend. I would consider her the deuteragonist.

  5. my book is tarzan of the apes by edgar rice burroughs

    well in my book tarzan is our protagonist also known as the good gut in this book

    and for our antagonist it would be kulonga because he hunts all the animals for game and ends up killing kala the gorilla that raised tarzan

    and in this book he doesnt really have any deuteragonists unless you count all the gorillas which he never spends time with untill he becomes leader of the group and even then he still leaves alot alone

  6. 1.) I’m reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

    2.) Obviously by looking at the title, the protagonist is Sherlock Holmes. He solves everyone’s mysteries, which is what the whole book is based on.

    3.) The antagonist in the stories are different in every mystery, because there is a different “bad guy” in each one.

    4.) The deuteragonist is Dr. John Watson, which is Sherlock Holmes’ sidekick, who helps him fight crime and let justice to be served!(:

  7. Jane Eyre by: Charlotte Bronte

    protagonist:Jane Eyre of course this story is about her

    antagonist:Ms.Reed because that is janes worst enemy and she nevver wants to go bck to that horrid place

    deuteragonist:Im not really sure but i think it might be Mr.Rochester cause he always seems to be around but then again maybe not…i have no idea………

  8. 1.The Island Of The Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
    2.The protagonist is Karana.
    3.I don’t think there is an antagonist.In the first part of the book their was a really mean dog but then he turns good.
    4.The dueteragonist would be the dog.

  9. Tour du monde en 80 jours de Jules Verne\

    Protagonist) Phileas Fogg is the protagonist because he is the main character in the story.

    Antagonist) Is unknown i haven’t got that far yet.

    Deuteragonist)Is his assistant Passeportout

  10. The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom

    1. The protagonist is Corrie ten Boom. She’s the main character in the book.
    2. There’s no specific antagonist in my book, but the soldiers are antagonistic toward her.
    3. The deuteragonist is probably her sister Betsie, because she spends most of her time with her, and she is in the book almost every page.

  11. 1. I’m reading EMMA by Jane Austen.
    2. The protagonist is Emma. The whole story is about her.
    3. I don’t think there is an antagonist, even though Mr. Knightly (not John but the other brother) is kind of mean to Emma in a teasing way. But he’s not mean enough to be considered a bad guy.
    4. The deuteragonist is probably Harriet because she’s Emma’s sidekick.

  12. 1.I’m reading Othello by Julius Lester.
    2.The protagonist is Othello. The whole story is about him.
    3.The antagonist is Iago because he wants to get revenge on Othello, which is not nice
    4.The deuteragonist I think is Desdemona, because she is an important character but not as important as Othello.

  13. 1. I’m reading The Red Pony by John Steinbeck.
    2. The protagonist is Jody. The whole story is about him.
    3. There is no antagonist BECAUSE the conflict in this story is man against nature, not man against man.
    4. The deuterogamist is Billy Buck because he teaches Jody how to take care of horses.

  14. Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
    Protagonist=Doc because the plot is based around him
    Antagonist=The old Chinese man because he is the only person who has done anything wrong. He attacked a little boy who made fun of him.
    Deuteragonist=Gay because he is trying to do something nice for Doc and is mentioned often but not as much as Doc

  15. TO KILL A MOCKING BIRD by Harper Lee.

    1:The protagonist is Scout, because everything is in her point of view.
    2:The atagonist is currently unkown… I’m not that far into the book yet, but it may be Mr. Radley.
    3: The deuteragonist is Jem, because he is Scout’s older brother and he seems to almost always be with her.

  16. 1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.
    2. The protagonist is Jane Eyre because this story is about her.
    3. The antagonist is her aunt Mrs. Reed because Jane is scared to have to go back and live with her if she doesn’t make her own life for herself.
    4. The deuteragonist could possibly be Mr. Rochester because it seems like he is always around Jane and they have grown to like each other. Also he is the second most important character in this story.

  17. The Call of The Wild by jack London

    1. the protagonist in this story is a dog named buck.hes the portagonist beacause hes the one that keeps the team in line.
    2. The antagonist in the book would have to be a dog named Spitz because he was always fighting with Buck and taking his food.
    3. I think the deuteragonist would be the wolf because he was Bucks only friend that he meets close to the end of the book.

    • Kahlan: Thanks for including your explanations. Since I’ve never read Call of the Wild, I’ve appreciated your clear and helpful explanations of why you believe this character or that one is the protagonist (or whatever).

  18. 1. I am reading The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss.
    2. The protagonist in the book is the father of the family.
    3. There is no antagonist because they are trapped on an island. The main conflict is against nature as in Hatchet.
    4. There are a couple of possibilities for the deuteragonist. First, it could be argued that the rest of the family is the deuteragonist sense he spends all his time with his family. The second, and more reasonable, is that the deuteragonist is the father’s oldest son Fritz. The reason being is because the father takes Fritz on all the more dangerous excursions, which there is a lot of, so Fritz spends the most time with his father so he could be the deuteragonist.

    • I’ve not read the book, only seen the movie, but I really think Fritz is the deuteragonist. It’s not possible to have multiple characters (like the dwarves in The Hobbit) as a deuteragonist. The deuteragonist must be a single entity. Sometimes a deuteragonist is even antagonistic against the protagonist–like in one of the Harry Potter books when Ron is mad at Harry.

  19. 1. Roots by Alex Haley
    2. The protagonist is Kunta Kinte because most of the book is about him.
    3. The antagonist is the toubob because they beat him, take him from his home, and break his spirit.
    4. The deuteragonist is his father because he teaches Kunta how to become a man and a hard worker. He teaches him the importance of life.

  20. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

    Protagonist) Tom is the protagonist is Tom Sawyer because he is “The Big Kuhuna” of the book.

    Antagonist) The antagonist is Toms Aunt Polly because she is kinda out to get him even though tom deserves it sometimes.

    Deuteragonist) Is Toms little brother Jim. He follows Tom around but isn’t as adventurous as Tom.

    • Hey Gage: 🙂

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t there a guy in Tom Sawyer who goes by the rather racist title of “Injun Joe”? If I remember right, Injun Joe is the antagonist. It’s just that I don’t think you’re far enough in the book to know that yet. But keep your eyes open for this dude. He’s a meanie.

  21. 1. I’m reading Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

    2. The protagonist is Billy, there is not one moment where Billy is not present.

    3. There is no antagonist because the conflict is getting his dogs and keeping them safe. It is possible that the antagonist is the Pichard boys but I have just barely started reading about them, if at the end of this book it turns out that the Pichard boys are the antagonist then I will comment.

    4. I would say that the deuteragonist would probably be his dogs Old Dan and Little Ann. He is with the, all of the time and loves them very much.

    • Addee: you can’t have two deuteragonists. So for example, in Harry Potter, Ron is the deuteragonist; Hermione is not. Why? Because Harry admires/respects and spends more time with Ron than Hermione. So if your book has a deuteragonist (which isn’t true of every book–just some) then you’ll have to pick the ONE dog that is most key to the story, aside from Billy, the protagonist.

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