The Wasp Factory


Iain Banks

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The Wasp Factory Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Iain Banks's The Wasp Factory. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Iain Banks

Iain Banks was born in Scotland, where he lived for the majority of his life. He wanted to be a writer from an early age, and after a series of unpublished attempts at science fiction in the late 1970s, he published his first novel, The Wasp Factory, at the age of thirty. Banks wrote twenty-seven novels during his lifetime, the last of which was published posthumously. He also wrote short stories, multiple books of nonfiction, and a posthumously published collection of poetry.
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Historical Context of The Wasp Factory

In a 2008 interview with The Guardian, Iain Banks explained that he looked to his own childhood for inspiration for The Wasp Factory. Although he saw the novel as an exaggeration and satirization of the more run-of-the-mill violence of childhood, he too spent his early years making bombs, flamethrowers, and giant catapults.

Other Books Related to The Wasp Factory

The Wasp Factory was initially met with shock and acclaim, as there had never been a work quite like it. Still, it follows in a tradition of other novels dealing with the confusion and violence of childhood, like William Golding’s Lord of the Flies or Lionel Shriver’s We Need to Talk About Kevin. A distinctly Scottish novel, The Wasp Factory is also related to the work of other novelists who lived in and wrote about Scotland, like Irvine Welsh, known for Trainspotting. As a kind of confessional of a murderer, The Wasp Factory resembles Brett Easton Elli’s American Psycho, or Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle.
Key Facts about The Wasp Factory
  • Full Title: The Wasp Factory
  • When Written: 1980s
  • Where Written: The United Kingdom
  • When Published: 1984
  • Literary Period: 20th Century Realistic Fiction
  • Genre: Contemporary Fiction
  • Setting: Scotland
  • Climax: Eric’s return to the island
  • Antagonist: Eric, Angus, Frank’s own dark impulses
  • Point of View: Frank, first person narration

Extra Credit for The Wasp Factory

Two Careers. Iain Banks published over a dozen novels under the name Iain “M.” Banks, to distinguish his science fiction from his realistic fiction. He had originally planned to publish all his novels under the name Iain M. Banks, but his publisher initially encouraged him to drop the middle initial because they worried it would confuse readers.

Early Jobs. Before Iain Banks found success as a novelist, he had a variety of odd jobs—working for IBM, as a technician helping to construct oi lrigs, and as a clerk for a law firm.