My research paper focuses on a novel with a nameless protagonist, so I'll be referring to him a lot. Is there some convention for referring to such characters in academic papers? For context, the novel is The Wings by Yi Sang, and here's an example sentence I'd like to be able to write:

Many of these sentiments are channeled through [nameless protagonist].

  • 1
    Can you give an example of a sentence using said nameless protagonist, and further explain your problem? Some research detailing what you don't understand would also be helpful to answer your question.
    – White Fang
    Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 2:19
  • The name of the novel might be useful to! and perhaps the protagonist (we probably don't need the name ;) )
    – Michael B
    Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 15:10
  • @WhiteFang: His difficulty is how to make constant references in an academic paper to a character who has no established moniker.
    – Standback
    Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 15:22
  • @MichaelB Okay, I've updated the question! Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 15:24
  • 1
    What's wrong with literally saying the protagonist?
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Mar 18, 2016 at 19:18

2 Answers 2


There isn't really a single conventional word that is used, I believe.

Protagonist might work, but it's pretty dry. I'd say in this case, for this story, it might be better to use a more descriptive word, or combination of words that identify the man more directly.

Start by looking at the character's relationships with the other characters in the story - especially the antagonist, his wife. If she's his wife, then he must be her husband. So he is the husband.

But the main character is also a willfully pathetic victim. When I read the story I just want to shake him and say, "Wake up!" (Which I think is maybe the point of the story.)

Calling him one thing over and over, will start to get awfully repetitive, and if writers have one convention, it's that they don't want to be boring. You might pick a couple of characteristics about the man out of the story and rotate through them, using all of them to identify him.


I think it's pretty common to refer to the main character in a story as "the hero" or "the main character", or, as you say, "the protagonist". If the writer doesn't give him a name, you could use one of these terms. Or shift between them for variety.

As @DoWhileNot suggests, if you can give the character a brief description, use that. Like, "the husband", "the traveler", "the soldier", etc.

Some writers give him a letter. I've read papers that say things like, "The character is not given a name in the story, so I shall refer to him as 'M'". I've seen one-letter names that stand for something relevant, like "B" for the man from Britain. Or simply X.

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