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The protagonist of the play is not a single character, but all of the small town people who live in Grover's Corners and take life for granted.
Each of the protagonists within the group of character in Grover's Corners is his/her own antagonist. They casually go about life, not appreciating the small things that make life worth living.
The climax occurs when Emily's spirit returns to her twelfth birthday. As she watches herself and others go through the daily routine of life, she realizes that no one really seizes the moment or appreciates what they have in life. They ignore the trivial, the essence of living, and wait for the big things, like birth, marriage, and death. As a result, life is passing them by.
The play ends as a tragedy. Not only does Emily die at an early age, leaving behind George and a four-year old son, the characters in Grover's Corners never change; they never stop to appreciate the insignificant things that are so important to truly living. Emily is so disturbed by what she sees when she returns to earth, that she chooses to go back early to the land of the dead, which is less frightening to her than the land of the living and missed opportunities.