Originally Posted by JimHull
As far as Casablanca goes, it's important to note that that is my own interpretation of the story's structure. There could be a chance that I've misinterpreted things, as I have in the past, and I'd be willing to change if a good argument for the goal of the story, the goal that affects everyone, could be engineered in such a way as to place Rick as the one driving the efforts towards the successful outcome of that goal.
I don't see him pursuing much of anything until the end after Lazlo guilt trips him. If I recall, you see his goal as trying to get back together with Ilsa and that he was pursuing that from the moment she walked into his place. I don't see that, in fact, to me it seems more like he is trying to avoid her, pushing her away because he is so hurt by her.
To me, these are not the actions of a Protagonist. Main Character, on the other hand, the one we care most about and empathize with the most, definitely.
Did any character in Casablancea have a story goal, that is a goal that arose at the end of the first Act, or thereabout? Was there an event which turned that character's life in another direction and propelled him toward a goal?
Laszlo's goal was always to get to America with Ilsa. So his goal to get letters of transit (any letters of transit, Brad) is nothing new. He wasen't propelled toward a goal by events in the story.
On the other hand, Rick's world is turned completely upside down when everything happens at once. Strasser comes to town, Ugarte hands Rick the letters, and Ilsa and Laszlo come to town.
Rick goes into action. He hides the letters from the authorities. He kicks the German officer out of the gambling room, allows the playing of the French anthem, keeps the letters of transit and doesn't allow the owner of the Blue Parrot to sell them. By his actions, although bitter on the outside, he shows whose side he's really on.
Rick may not have a well defined goal, probably because his mind is so screwed up by his love for Ilsa and because of the what happened to him even before he met Ilsa (we never find out what these events were which prevent him from returning to America), but his actions and how he handles all the **** that's going on, he propels the story.
In the end Rick saves Laszlo and Ilsa, kills Strasser, and makes it out of Casablanca to join the resistance.
Does a protag need a well defined goal near the beginning of the story?