What Is the Literary Definition of a Major Character?

By Staff WriterLast Updated Mar 31, 2020 12:52:04 PM ET
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In literature, a major character is defined as a character that is central to the development and resolution of the story's conflict. Most of the action of the story happens around the major character or characters, and their activity advances the plot and helps determine the outcome of the text. The major character is not always the protagonist, as almost all novels have only one protagonist and several other major characters. The protagonist is the central character that is faced with the conflict that must be resolved.


Major characters can sometimes be indistinguishable from the protagonist and antagonist, or the person creating tension or conflict. Major characters are identified by their purpose in the story and whether their activity helps or hinders the protagonist solve his problem. In a novel, the main action of the story revolves around the central character, or protagonist. Major characters may have their own subplots that occur simultaneously with the protagonists problem. Other types of characters in a story include minor characters and extras. Minor characters do not have their own subplots, and their activity is not relevant to the solution of the protagonist's problem. Their purpose is often to establish a particular viewpoint. Extras are used to fill up empty space in a novel's plot. They are often used to populate a setting in order for the novel to maintain its realism.