The Wasp Factory

by

Iain Banks

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The Wasp Factory: Chapter 10 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Frank is annoyed that Eric lost his mind. He sees it as a “weakness, a fundamental flaw that a real man should not have had.” To fall apart in the face of trauma seems, to Frank, to be a feminine characteristic. However, he admits there must be “a few strong women” who could endure hardship, and, on the flipside, a few weaker men who could not. Frank believes that Eric’s childhood sensitivity and delicacy are indications that he had “just a little too much…woman” in him.
Frank loves his brother and feels he must protect him because he believes Eric is naturally weaker. Frank equates weakness and femininity, and therefore describes Eric’s flaw as being due to having feminine qualities. Still, Frank’s ideas of gender are shifting somewhat, as he acknowledges that women can have masculine characteristics just as men can have feminine ones.
Themes
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
Sanity and Insanity  Theme Icon
Sexism and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Frank resents Agnes for having Eric sent away during his early years. He also blames his father for dressing Eric in both dresses and pants as a child. He hopes his father blames himself as well.
Frank is always quick to blame Agnes for anything because he hates her. He also blames his father, because he feels that letting Eric wear dresses made him more feminine as an adult. This also shows Angus experimenting on his children’s gender presentation, something that will be important later. 
Themes
Sexism and Gender Roles Theme Icon
That night Frank goes to bed early. The next day, restless, Frank patrols the island. The day is hot but he walks all over, crossing to the mainland, exploring the town dump, and eventually resting by a cabin, where he hears what he thinks is the wail of a dog being tortured. He takes out his binoculars in time to see a dog on fire, running down a nearby hill. Frank runs towards where the dog had been. He follows patches of burning grass down to a stream, where the dog has laid down. Frank kills the dog, shooting it through the eye with his slingshot and a steel ball. He whispers, “Frank’ll get you.” Frank buries the dog and returns home. He and Angus have dinner, but do not discuss Eric. Frank notices a headline in the paper saying a cottage in nearby Inverness mysterious caught fire.
Frank understands that the burning dog means Eric is nearby. This moment shows a key difference between Eric and Frank. Although in the past Frank has killed indiscriminately (specifically the male rabbit and his memories of torturing birds), he generally likes to kill only for a reason, without excessively torturing the animals. In this moment, he puts the dog out of its misery, an act of kindness that seems almost out of place, and one that Eric likely would not bestow upon a dying animal.
Themes
Control, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Sanity and Insanity  Theme Icon
That night the phone rings. It’s Eric, acting manic, joking and playing word games. Frank isn’t interested in playing along. He tells Eric he saw the burning dog. He asked Eric to stop torturing animals and children, threatening him. Eric either doesn’t understand, or pretends not to understand what Frank means.  Frank hangs up the phone, pretending it was Jamie when his father asks. That night he sleeps fitfully.
Although frustrated by his brother and disturbed by his actions, Frank nonetheless tries to protect him. Once again, Eric is acting insane, and Frank seems logical and put-together in contrast.
Themes
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
Sanity and Insanity  Theme Icon
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