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Wow! I've learned a lesson from this topic - ignore your teachers. I say that with earnest too, which is sad. I don't know what the **** those teachers are thinking or who the **** hired them, but God **** that is ****ed up advice. Here's the truth:
The protagonist can be evil. Just look at the movie "Thank You for Smoking" or IIRC "MacBeth." The protagonist can fail. In fact, that makes for a memorable, moving, and surprising ending.
The protagonist will most likely not be either of those things, but he/she sure as **** can be them. The protagonist doesn't have to be a hero either, like if the protagonist's goal was just to survive the antagonist's attacks by fleeing.
Now, with all that nonsense debunked, to answer dark lancer's question in a more helpful way, it's probably best for the protagonist to become nice or start off nice. He can also just be less evil than the antagonist instead of being nice.
Yeah I was thinking of just writing my irredeemable evil guy short story regardless of what is "proper." The collection is intended to give slices of life in my fictional future city from various perspectives; I'm already writing on and off about one of the few straight cops in the city.
I think it was Lady MacBeth who was the evil one and Lord MacBeth was somehow enthralled to do her bidding. It's been years so I don't remember.
Don't worry, we'll outnumber you eventually. [Papal Crusaders]
Thank you, dark lancer! :) You just gave me the answer for which I've been searching. If I ever get around to writing something with that villain idea of mine, I'll make a point-of-view character who is sympathetic to the villain's victims but obedient to the villain out of fear or whatever (kind of like MacBeth) then have the point-of-view character assist-and-thus-follow-around the villain so that it's really more about the villain (kind of like Lady MacBeth). That may or may not be what you want to do with your story, but it solves that obstacle for that story idea of mine. :)
Isn't Othello the protagonist of "Othello," though?
The protagonist is the person that advances the plot so argument could be made that Iago is the protagonist of the story though not every story only has one protagonist.
To answer the topic, not entirely. It's more important to have the protagonist's actions and motivations be understandable to the reader, to understand why the do what they do.
Look at A Clockwork Orange, Alex isn't very likable (though they do make him somewhat charismatic in his own way) and I don't know if he's really all that relateable either. I suppose one could argue that he's redeemed but he's still a little **** for most of it. The thing with these kinds of books is there's more to story than getting behind the character, they're generally things like social commentaries and so forth.
And I think Macbeth is a great example. He doesn't start of evil but becomes consumed by it and ends after he does some terrible things. One could argue that it's Lady Macbeth that pushes him to do this but that just makes him seem even weaker and kind of worse. But what makes the character work so well is because we understand the why behind all his actions, be the good or bad, which makes him a great protagonist.