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PhiNotPi's avatar

What are some examples of books in which the protagonist is the "bad guy"?

Asked by PhiNotPi (12165 points ) June 24th, 2012

In most stories, the main character (the protagonist) is normally the person who is fighting against some sort of evil or injustice, and the reader wants the protagonist to win in the end. The protagonist is normally viewed as the “good guy” with noble intentions, while the antagonist is viewed as the “bad guy” what wants to commit evil for some sort of personal gain.

However, the word protagonist is defined merely as the leading character in the story, with the story written around his point of view. The definition says nothing about the person being on the side of good in the conflict.

What are some examples of stories on which the protagonist fights on the side of evil? Are there any books in which the protagonist does evil things and ends up winning the conflict?

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18 Answers

Michael_Huntington's avatar

Macbeth
Well, he doesn’t win the conflict, though

gailcalled's avatar

Cormac McCarthy’s “No Country for Old Men” has a protagonist (on the side of good) and an antagonist (the nasty, evil guy) who both get equal time. The antagonist is the last man standing.

Unless my memory fails me, didn’t Macbeth bite the dust in the last act?

In “Othello,” Othello croaks and Iago lives on.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Piers Anthony’s On a Pale Horse.

harple's avatar

Wuthering Heights, the fabulous Heathcliff…

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

A Clockwork Orange

submariner's avatar

OP: Try googling or wiki-searching “anti-hero”. That might generate some leads.

wildpotato's avatar

All of Chuck Palahniuk’s books. Several of the protagonists in the Game of Thrones series do awful things, but I think it’s more about everyone working for their own interests than good versus bad guys. Gene Wolfe’s Shadow of the Torturer series, though that’s certainly an arguable one. Tom McCarthy’s Remainder, maybe. Oh duh! Raskolnikov in Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment! Camus’ The Stranger. Humbert Humbert in Nabokov’s Lolita. Jerry Jay Carroll’s Top Dog. Bukowski in nearly all of his stories. Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas, I suppose.

bolwerk's avatar

Angel Heart, also a film starring Micky Rourke. It’s well played too.

flutherother's avatar

Cugel from ‘The Eyes of the Overworld’ by Jack Vance
Steerpike from the Gormenghast series of Mervyn Peake
Neither was successful in the end.

gailcalled's avatar

@wildpotato: Very good list. However, at the end of The Stranger, Meursault is about to be executed by the guillotine for having shot the Arab. That event does not actually take place but one assumes…

fundevogel's avatar

There’s Henry Miller’s character in Tropic of Cancer. He’s not evil, but he’s not good either. He explicitly rejects the code of ethics society would impose on him. The result is a principled dedication to living life according to his own expectations rather than those imposed on him. His survival to a certain extent relies on taking advantage of other people’s generosity, weakness or ignorance. I still found him fairly likeable though.

sixteenarmsbill's avatar

I can think of some games such as overlord 1 and 2 if that helps

Blondesjon's avatar

The entire Dune series.

just ‘cuz paul ain’t harkonnen don’t mean he ain’t bad . . .

filmfann's avatar

In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge is as bad as one can be, but he does find redemption at the end, so that may not work as an answer.

filmfann's avatar

The Godfather, I suppose.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@Blondesjon: but Paul was Harkonnen. His mom was a Harkonnen bastard.

Juels's avatar

The Host by Stephenie Meyers. The story is told from the alien’s POV. While you see that the invasion and take-over of Earth is wrong, you can’t help but sympathize with them.

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