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Why do the protagonist and major characters in Split Tooth by Tanya Tagaq remain nameless?

There is no one specific reason why the characters in this book are nameless. However, it could because the narrator talks about complex topics such as addiction and assault. Not naming people tells the reader that the narrator values protecting herself and others. The lack of names could also be a way for the reader to have an immersive experience and connect with the characters on a deeper level.

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Tagaq does not specify a clear reason why the major characters in Split Tooth remain nameless. However, the text suggests several reasons for this choice.

One possible reason is to allow the reader to relate to the characters’ experiences. This book is a unique work of fiction that includes bits of poetry and memoir as well as moments of magical realism. Such a dynamic genre creates a fluid, immersive reading experience that might be hindered by a rigid labeling of character names.

The lack of names also allows the reader to directly connect with the characters’ experiences. Tagaq allows readers to project themselves into the action and to see themselves in the text. For example, consider the poem near the beginning of the book entitled “A Day in the Life.” Lines in this poem like “Grade five is hard” and “The boys chase us and hold us down” are direct and relatable to many readers. Tagaq’s choice to use the word “boys” here instead of naming specific boys allows the reader to recall similar situations in their own lives, without picturing a specific character.

The lack of names in this work could also be present because of the subjects the narrator discusses. Consider how the narrator mentions instances of addiction and sexual assault. By not calling people out by name, the narrator protects herself and these characters from unwanted attention or judgment. This helps the reader understand who she is and what she values.

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