Compare the Ways in Which the Theme of Insanity Is Presented in the Novels “the Wasp Factory” and “the Collector”

Topics: The Wasp Factory, Iain Banks, John Fowles Pages: 10 (3000 words) Published: November 6, 2012
Compare the ways in which the theme of insanity is presented in the novels “the Wasp Factory” and “the Collector”. Miles Cooper

Iain Banks and John Fowles have successfully written books portraying insanity, with the effective use of many techniques. Language, in the books, “The Collector” and “The Wasp Factory” has been used to great effect as well as enthralling plots and the development of characters exhibiting strange behaviour to achieve realistically insane characters.

Misogyny is an apparent issue in each novel, and the cruelty shown to women is a large part of the narrative. Both main characters Frank and Frederick Clegg have different reasons for their actions, however both of their stories are dark and thrilling. It can be argued, that the absence of women in Frank’s life, has fundamentally scarred his conscience and he shows his extreme contempt for women regularly and often in disturbing ways. For example, Frank murders his younger cousin, whom he believed to be ‘perfectly likeable’, just to remove the ‘statistical favour’ he had given women by killing his younger brother. Esmerelda is described by Frank as a purely innocent child, and the fact that he can see this, worries the reader further as you begin to see how twisted his mind is.

“The wind blew her blond hair in front of her face as she walked, squatted, crawled and talked,” Page 116

To the reader, Esmerelda is an innocent girl, who has no reason to be hurt, however to Frank she is just the ‘easiest and most obvious target’. The questionable state of Frank’s mind is exposed here, we see frank witness the childlike actions that Esmerelda performs, particularly ‘crawled’, but due to his insanity and hatred of women he still carries out his malicious and rehearsed plan.

Frederick Clegg’s actions, on the other hand are too complex to be defined solely as misogynistic, but they are just as terrifying. Clegg carefully develops every step of his plan, in a cold and mathematical language.

“One problem of course was doors and noise” page 23

The extent to which Clegg has gone to, to ensure safety is extreme, and although he says he loves Miranda, he only wants to make a possession of her; and factors such as her ‘noise’ are just a problem that he needs to overcome. His inability to share intimacy and to take other people’s values seriously shows that he is incompetent at relating to other human beings and unable to see his actions as wrong. He also dehumanises Miranda,,, suggesting his inability to see women as fully human. His extreme actions and behaviour, like Frank’s, may stem from the lack of a normal up bringing.

It is often said that humans acquire all or almost all their behavioral traits from "nurture". Both Frank and Clegg’s upbringing have been irregular and each author makes a point of noting it. Frank’s childhood is specifically disturbing and it can be seen that at least part of the blame can be placed upon the poor rearing from his father.

“When old Saul savaged me, my father saw it as an ideal opportunity for a little experiment, and a way of lessening – perhaps removing entirely – the influence of the female around him as I grew up.” Page 240

The horrifying conduct shown from Frank’s father obviously would have a crippling affect on Frank’s state of mind, and there is no doubt that the denial of female role models encouraged him to behave in such a misogynist fashion.

We also see the affect that circumstance has on mental health with the example of Frank’s brother, Eric. Frank constantly reminds the reader about Eric’s state of mind in every chapter: “satanically reversed”, and “the conflagration in his head”. Eric becomes insane due to a terrifying spectacle, seen while working at a hospital.

“What he saw with all that weight of human suffering above, with all that mighty spread of closed-in, heat-struck darkened city all around… was a slowly writhing nest of fat maggots, swimming in their combined...

Bibliography: The Wasp Factory
The Collector
Postmodernist narrative strategies in the novels of John Fowles
(Prof. Dr. Manfred Smuda) (
California Literary Review
Hamish Hamilton - Literary Consequences
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