The Wasp Factory - Essay

Topics: Ritual, Novel, Iain Banks Pages: 2 (543 words) Published: November 15, 2008
Plot introduction

Written from the first person perspective, it is a narrative told by sixteen-year-old Frank Cauldhame, describing his childhood and all that remains of it. Frank observes many religious rituals of his own invention. As the novel develops, his brother's escape from a mental hospital and impending return lead on to a violent ending and a twist that undermines all that Frank believed about himself. Plot summary

The 'Wasp Factory' of the title is a clock face salvaged from the local dump. Behind each numeral is a trap, which leads to a different ritual death (for example burning, crushing, or drowning in Frank's urine) for the wasp that Frank puts into the hole at the centre. He uses the death 'chosen' by the wasp to divine the future. There are also the Sacrifice Poles, upon which hang the bodies and heads of larger animals Frank has killed, and other sacred items. They define and 'protect' the borders of his territory. Frank occupies himself using his religion and an array of weapons (from his catapult, to home-made flame throwers and pipe bombs) to control the island. He goes for long walks, and occasionally gets drunk with his dwarf friend in the local pub. Other than that, he and his father have almost no contact with the outside world. After a long buildup, which comes to define the book, we meet Frank's psychopathic brother, Eric, and discover what happened to him to drive him insane. He is described all the way through as a darker and nastier version of Frank, and the reader is not disappointed. Literary significance & criticism

The novel works largely from the position of Grand Guignol, and can also be seen as a 'Bildungsroman'. It also deals with Banks' sceptical attitudes towards organised religion. Frank is obsessive about ritual and the form of things; the Wasp Factory and the Sacrifice Poles are talismanically protective, and divinatory in intent. The novel is also about power and its abuse. Frank's father's deception of his...
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