[prōˈtagənist] : the main character in a novel, play, movie, etc.
To break down the definition of the word "protagonist" to middle school students, I explain that the protagonist is the "good guy" in the story and the antagonist is the "bad guy". Some synonyms include - hero, white knight, and champion. Of course, the more we read the more we know that it is never that simple. There are a few stories where our protagonist has flaws, but we still identify with and applaud him or her because they are basically "good". A student asked the other day who I thought was the protagonist in "The Crucible." I thought for a second, I would say John Proctor, what do you think? Though he was certainly not perfect [you know the whole adultery thing] in the end, he still wanted to protect his wife from the accusations of witchcraft.
When I have time, I enjoy several period pieces on television like Mad Men set in the 1960's-70's and Halt and Catch Fire set in the 80's, where the protagonist in the stories, have serious flaws. I am still capable of identifying with the characters despite the flaws. However, I have recently seen a new series called Tyrant and I instantly connected with Barry or Bassam the main character. But the more I watch the more disturbed I am that I have identified with him. The theme seems to be "the end justifies the means." So, should we kill one person in cold blood to save one hundred? One thousand, a city, a country?
To read more about these Protagonists or Antiheroes
Where Have All the Good Guys Gone?: On Game of Thrones, Mad Men, and Antihero Fatigue
Difficult Men: From The Sopranos and The Wire to Mad Men and Breaking Bad by Brett Martin – review The inside story of how the best TV series of the last 20 years came to be made
FX's 'Tyrant' Drowns an Opportunity for Nuance in Stereotypes by ERIC DEGGANS June 24, 2014
Mad, bad and dangerous to know: TV’s anti-heroes 17 JULY 2014
BAD MEN, MAD WOMEN APRIL 13, 2014 SUSANNAH SHARPLESS