Are Antagonist and Villain the Same Thing?

In this post, we go in-depth on the question: Are antagonist and villain the same thing?

How Are Antagonist and Villain the Same Thing

I'll explain why the terms "villain" and "antagonist" are frequently used interchangeably in a moment. They do not, however, mean the same thing, and this is where some writers make mistakes.

Although it appears to be the same, it is not. They are two completely different terms whose literary (or creative) applications differ. Because both concepts are frequently misunderstood, we will attempt to summarize them.

Let us begin with the Wikipedia definitions of the two terms:

Antagonists are distinguished by direct opposition. An antagonist is not necessarily evil; they simply oppose the protagonist's actions, thoughts, motives, and so on. The term says nothing about the character's actual personality. It's merely a plot role. As a result, an antagonist can be opposed to some characters but not others.

A villain is "responsible for particular issues, harm, or damages" and has "evil actions or motives." The nature of a villain is evil. He might or might not be the main antagonist. His actions are not just a complement to stall the plot but also a reflection of who he is. To put it another way, the villain's evil deeds are not always, always, and exclusively directed at the main character.

Can the antagonist also be the villain?

Yes, the antagonist can also be the villain.

In addition to their evil deeds, the antagonist can also persuade others to act so that the protagonists are setback in their goals. That is to say, he will interfere to prevent the protagonist from achieving that goal in addition to carrying out evil deeds.

Sauron from The Lord of the Rings serves as an illustration of this. He is a malicious being. To rule the known world with darkness, he wants to destroy everything good in middle earth and beyond. However, because of his ability to possess both a body and other material (such as the red eye of Sauron in Mordor), he uses some to further his goals while perverting those of others.

To do this, he assembles the flying beasts (Nazgul), the fallen kings (who are transformed into ghouls), and Saruman, who creates the orcs. He wants to locate and take possession of the one ring, which is the central theme of the narrative. At all costs, their destruction must be avoided.


Sometimes the villain and antagonist are not the same characters. For example, a villain could be (almost) the protagonist of the story but not necessarily opposed to anyone in particular.

Patrick Bateman from Breton Easton Ellis' American Psycho is a prime example. Patrick is a villain both to other people and to himself. He does evil things because he enjoys them, not because he wants to "stop an almost written destiny." Instead, he enjoys the dominance, control, and power he exercises over his victims.

Other villains exist, and while they do not directly conflict with the protagonist, their deeds form a crucial part of the story's plot.

For example, in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, Dr. Henry Jekyll unintentionally creates Edward Hyde's character in himself through his experiments. The potion he creates can bring out the worst in a person. Therefore, he is ultimately a villain, not necessarily an enemy or antagonist.

Therefore, this makes us believe that not all antagonists are bad guys. They are people who cause the protagonists to stumble in their lives for various philosophical or character reasons. Inspector Javert, a character in Victor Hugo's Les Misérables, represents a literary case. Javert was not bad; rather, he was a man whose moral convictions prevented him from forgiving someone who had broken the law. He pursued the main character Jean Valjean for about seventeen years.

Can an antagonist also be a villain?

We must take into account the distinctions between the antagonist and the villain.

The antagonist tends to be a character or set of characters in the story. He may play a large role in the narrative, even serving as the main character or making brief appearances and disappearances. His internal evil, dark thoughts, or other disturbances motivate his actions; his character or personality determines everything else.

He will either purposefully provoke the main character or act randomly. He does not consider the effects of his decisions, and he is not afraid of being punished. His ego is enormous, and he feels powerless to control his desire to hurt others.

An entity or person from the story can serve as the antagonist. For example, the actions of a physical character are influenced by their emotions. In other words, his opposition to the protagonists is motivated by how they make him feel.

For example, Javert believed Valjean had "cheated" him. Others will voice their opposition out of retaliation, lack of love, envy, and jealousy. Others because they want to stand out, become famous, or accomplish X goals ahead of others.

Sometimes the antagonist is not a physical being. Any circumstance that prevents the protagonists from achieving their goals can be thought of as becoming antagonistic. Take a war as an example. Both sides view one another as their "enemies" and themselves as the "good guys."

According to the story's author, the war will decide which of the two sides achieves victory or defeat. In other situations, it might be a disease, the state of the economy, a move, or being a refugee. The antagonists of a character can be a lack of forgiveness, an addiction, or a lack of trust. In many dystopias, the antagonist is a political or social concept.

It should be thought through what function each of our characters will serve. The ability to develop them in a way that prevents certain people from finding their actions amusing or unthinkable will determine whether or not they are real and credible.

For instance, a neighbor who is a liar and spreads untruths about a newlywed's virtue cannot, from nothing, kidnap and torture young virgins. We must be careful not to overuse character archetypes and never to use the Deux ex Machina to excuse the unethical.

Here are resources I recommend to get more in-depth knowledge

Storytelling 101 teaches you how to write compelling stories worthy of commercial success. This is best for screenwriters, novelists, filmmakers, videogame writers and storytellers.

Children’s Books 101 teaches you how to write stories that children will love. This is best for aspiring children’s book authors and storytellers.

Owl AI is the revolutionary AI-powered content production platform that helps storytellers, writers, and bloggers of all subject matter easily create highly-polished content.

Success, Money & Mindset Subliminal is a self-hypnosis recording that we recommend to new writers to help with focus, concentration, creativity, and motivation.

Shadow Work Journal: 240 Daily Prompts contains inner work exercises related to relationships, anger, anxiety, self-love, healing trauma, abandonment issues, depression, forgiveness, etc.


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