Protagonist: The main character in a work; usually also the hero or heroine, but sometimes an antihero. The term comes from the Greek for “first combatant” and referred to the first actor (the person with the leading role, supported by the chorus) in classical Greek tragedy. If the protagonist is in primary conflict with another character, that character is the antagonist; an evil antagonist is called a villain.

EXAMPLES: Evelina Anville is the protagonist and heroine of Fanny Burney’s Evelina (1778); Emma Woodhouse is the protagonist but dubious heroine of Jane Austen’s Emma (1815); Becky Sharp is the unheroic — and sometimes quasi-villainous — protagonist of William Makepeace Thackeray’s Vanity Fair (1846).

Over the course of the Star Wars saga, Anakin Skywalker begins as the hero-protagonist in The Phantom Menace (1999) and Attack of the Clones (2002); remains the protagonist but turns decisively to evil in Revenge of the Sith (2005); serves as the villain-antagonist in A New Hope (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), and The Return of the Jedi (1983); and finally, at the very end of The Return of the Jedi, turns back toward good to save his son Luke’s life.