New Words: Main Characters

Image by lisa runnels from Pixabay

New Word #123

protagonist vs. antagonist vs. deuteragonist

  • protagonist: the leading character or one of the major characters in a drama, movie, novel, or other fictional text.
  • antagonist: a person who actively opposes or is hostile to someone or something. Often a protagonist in a movie or a book has an antagonist.
  • deuteragonist: the person second in importance to the protagonist in a drama.

principal vs principle

  • principal: a person who has controlling authority or is in a leading position. For example, the main character of a movie is also called principal character.
  • principle: a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning

villain vs. supervillain

  • villain: a character whose evil actions or motives are important to the plot.
  • supervillain: a fictional villain with superhuman powers.

hero, superhero, anti-hero

  • superhero: a benevolent fictional character with superhuman powers, such as Superman.
  • anti-hero: a protagonist or notable figure who is conspicuously lacking in heroic qualities.Google says the main character of the movie “Joker” is an anti-hero. I’ve never seen the movie. I think all the books and plays of George Bernard Shaw have anti-heros, who are comical and interesting figures.

hero phrases

  • hero worship: admire (someone) excessively.
  • unsung hero: One who does great deeds but receives little or no recognition for them. One of our life’s biggest twists is that there are numerous unsung heroes in our life whom we don’t even say thanks to; on the other hand the “sung hero” of our life can also turn out to be a narcissist.
  • reluctant hero: The reluctant hero is typically portrayed either as an everyman forced into surreal situations which require him to rise to heroism and its acts.
  • tragic hero: A tragic hero is a character in a dramatic tragedy who has virtuous and sympathetic traits but ultimately meets with suffering or defeat. For example, the main characters of Philip Roth are usually tragic heroes. And the tragedies of their life are usually caused by women who plague them endlessly…
  • hero complex or hero syndrome: The Hero Complex, sometimes called the Hero Syndrome or Savior Complex, is when someone strives to be the hero of the situation. No matter the situation or the odds, they want to be the ones that save the day. For example, a person who grew up under narcissistic parents often has a hero complex, pitching himself or herself as a problem solver no matter what.

title vs. entitle

Once I learned from a YouTube video that the correct way of describing a title of a book is, “the book is titled blah-blah” rather than “the book is entitled blah-blah.” The very next day, when reading “Portnoy’s Complaints”, I encountered “the book is entitled…” I guess this is another one of those things that people would argue forever. Just like the pair “go to hospital” or “go to the hospital”. Or phrases like “on vacation”, “on a vacation”, “on holiday”.

I’ve long passed the phase of trying to use phrases to sound more like a native speaker. Now I am in a phrase of trying to develop a distinct style for a non-native speaker, wishing that my non-nativeness can accentuate and enhance my style.

  • title role: the main character in a play or movie whose name is in its title
  • supporting role: a fairly important but not leading part, esp in a play or film.
  • side kick:a person’s assistant or close associate, especially one who has less authority than that person.
  • foil character: a character whose purpose is to accentuate or draw attention to the qualities of another character, most often the protagonist. For example, Dr. Watson is the perfect foil character for Sherlock Holmes–Watson’s slowness makes Holmes’ analysis and insights look more brilliant.
  • an extra:An extra, more commonly referred to as a Background Actor, is someone who performs in a production in a nonspeaking role, usually in the background

13 thoughts on “New Words: Main Characters

  1. I remember you mentioning that you also read or know the story 水滸傳, right? I would say almost every character is an anti-hero. They are all criminals, many of them with questionable moral characters yet somehow they are considered heroic individuals. My favorite would always be the fake monk “Lu Da”.

    I am also glad to learn the word, deuteragonist. One of these days I want to use it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I really enjoy these lists. Another vaguely related one us the word “eponymous” – as in “Jane Eyre, the eponymous heroine of the novel”. I’ve never used it myself but it sounds clever! For some reason I find it a bit confusing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Love how you lay out the nuances each of these terms presents! I recently wrote a paper for one of my classes and one of my greatest revelations was realizing the difference between a hero and a protagonist. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am glad you like it. Hmmm, I wonder about the difference too. I mean a hero is usually a protagonist, right? The difference can be quite interesting and like what you said with nuances. English is all about nuances and subtleties, which can sometimes drive a non-native speaker like me crazy. LOL.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s