The Wasp Factory

by

Iain Banks

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The Wasp Factory: Chapter 11 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In the morning, Frank cleans himself and visits the loft. He dusts the altar, and adjusts the factory. He makes a circuit of the island, repairing the Sacrifice Poles as needed. He then engages in some target practice, shooting ball bearings and throwing his knife at a tree.  Mrs. Clamp visits for lunch. She reports that a dog is missing in town. Frank jokes it’s lucky Eric isn’t around to take the blame.
Frank continues to live his life according to a strict routine, which makes him feel in control and powerful. Frank implies that Eric was falsely accused of lighting dogs on fire previously, but Eric was definitely burning dogs before his arrest.
Themes
Ritual and Superstition  Theme Icon
Sanity and Insanity  Theme Icon
After lunch, Frank feels cheerful and energetic. That night he continues to patrol the island, looking out with his binoculars. He sees some smoke, but doubts Eric has generated it. He watches Angus leave home and walk to town unsteadily. Frank suspects he is drunk. This is unusual, and Frank returns home to investigate.
As part of his compulsive and ritualistic nature, Frank is good at recognizing patterns, and breaks in patterns. Angus’s drunkenness strikes Frank as abnormal behavior, which causes him to investigate further.
Themes
Ritual and Superstition  Theme Icon
Control, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Inside, the phone is hanging off the hook. Frank suspects Angus got a phone call, was surprised by it, and got drunk. Frank debates what Eric’s next move will be. He decides that Eric will definitely get in touch. In that case, Frank will remain at home, in the “center of my power and strength.”
Faced with an unfamiliar, stressful situation, Frank does his best to stay in control. He feels safest on the island, near his weapons and his ritual sites and objects — the Bunker, the Poles, the Factory.
Themes
Ritual and Superstition  Theme Icon
Control, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Frank sits in his kitchen, waiting. In the early evening Angus calls incredibly drunk. He tells Frank Eric has been caught, and asks Frank to come into town. Frank agrees to join him, but as he walks into town he notices a patch of telephone wire where birds are not sitting. He gets up to investigate, discovering the telephone wire leading from the mainland to his house has been cut. On a nearby telephone pole someone has nailed a dog’s ear. Suddenly reinvigorated, Frank turns around and runs back to the island. Back at home, Frank is ecstatic to know Eric is still out there. He’s angry at Angus, who he realizes lied to him to try and lure out of the house “just because he was too frightened to face Eric.”
Frank understands that Angus likely got a phone call from Eric, was scared, and got drunk. Suspecting that Eric would come to the house, Angus tried to lure Frank away to protect him. Angus does genuinely care about Frank’s wellbeing, but Frank doesn’t appreciate the gesture. Instead he sees Angus as cowardly (a trait he often associates with women, and therefore dislikes). Additionally, even though he is scared of his brother, Frank misses him and is excited to see him again.
Themes
Ritual and Superstition  Theme Icon
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
Sexism and Gender Roles Theme Icon
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Frank has fallen asleep waiting for Eric. He wakes up to the sound of someone moving around downstairs. He hopes its Eric, but its just Angus, staggering drunkenly to bed. Angus yells for Frank but Frank doesn’t respond. After his father has gone to bed, Frank goes downstairs. He finds Angus’s coat, with keys in the pocket. Frank will finally be able to unlock his father’s study.
Angus has denied Frank access to the study for his entire life. However, Angus has finally let his guard down. For once, Frank has the upper hand in their relationship and is in a position of power and control.
Themes
Control, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Inside the study Frank finds a specimen jar that holds a “tiny, torn set of male genitalia.” Seeing them, Frank cries at his loss.
The specimen jar and the testicles within them represent, to Frank, all of his wasted potential — a life he could have lived.
Themes
Sexism and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Frank eventually regains his composure and looks around more carefully. Most of the items in the room are “junk and chemicals,” but he continues to investigate. Frank unlocks a drawer using his father’s key and is shocked by what he finds: inside is a box of tampons, a box of male hormones, and a box labeled KBr. Confronted with this puzzle, Frank begins to work through it. He comes to the conclusion that Angus is, in fact, Agnes, and has been taking male hormones and passing himself off as Frank’s father. Frank realizes he’s never his father without a shirt, and has noticed his arms have very little hair. He takes the tampons, the hormones, and his knife, goes to visit Angus. 
Frank’s immediate assumption is that Angus is not his father, but his mother. He realizes that Agnes sounds similar to Angus, and therefore assumes his father has been lying to him his entire life. Frank’s evidence is weak — not every man has a lot of body hair — but, in his defense, it is hard to imagine why his father would need a many-month supply of male hormones. Frank is angry at the deception, but also at the idea that a man he had some respect for was once the member of a gender he distrusts and despises.
Themes
Sexism and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Angus is sleeping in bed. Frank wakes him with two slaps to the face. Frank shows him the tampons and the hormones, demanding some kind of explanation Angus is too drunk to explain anything, and instead tries to escape his violent son. Frank threatens Angus with a knife until he lays still, and then removes his father’s pants. As he does so Angus tries to apologize, explaining drunkenly, “Was an experimen, sall. Juss an expermen…” Frank cuts Angus off by calling him a bitch. Frank pulls Angus’s pants all the way off, revealing his penis.
Any affection Frank once felt for his father is totally destroyed by his suspicion that Angus is a transgender man. Although Angus struggles to explain the truth, he sees how upset his son is, and gives up all control, letting Frank do what he needs to do. However, when Frank pulls off Angus’ pants, looking for a vagina, he is confused to see that his father is at least anatomically male.
Themes
Control, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
Sexism and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Frank is interrupted by screams and bleats outside, accompanied by a strange orange light. Looking out the window, he sees a herd of sheep, all set on fire, charging over the hill. Behind them comes Eric, holding a torch and dancing. Frank runs out to greet him.   
Although Eric’s entrance makes it clear that he is still both crazy and dangerous, Frank doesn’t mind. He still loves and misses his brother.
Themes
Control, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
Sanity and Insanity  Theme Icon
Frank arrives outside to find Eric hacking at the cellar door with an axe. Frank yells to Angus to get out of the house. Eric makes it through the door, but drops the torch, changing direction and charging at Frank instead. Frank ducks, and Eric runs into the night. Frank retrieves the torch, which managed not to light any of the cordite in the cellar on fire. However, a burning sheep has collided with the shed where Frank has hidden his bombs, which explodes deafeningly.
Although moments ago Frank was furious at his father, he doesn’t want him to die. Throughout the novel Frank has appeared questionably sane, but here, seeing Eric in the middle of the action, Frank looks reasonable in contrast. 
Themes
Control, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
Sanity and Insanity  Theme Icon
Frank goes back inside. The sheep have all died or burned out. Eric has disappeared. Angus is at the sink with a bucket of water and a carving knife. Frank explains the danger is over. Frank asks Angus to sit down and explain some things to him. Angus had brought the specimen jar downstairs with him, and now reaches for it. He knocks it to the ground where it smashes. He takes the specimen from it, closing his fist around it. Opening his hand again, he reveals a pink ball, like “a lump of plasticine, or wax.”   
The testicles in the specimen jar are not real. Instead, they are tiny sculptures made of wax. The specimen jar had represented Frank’s lost (or stolen) future, holding within it his ability to reproduce and his ability to grow into the kind of man he’s always fantasized about. However, by crushing the specimens, Angus reveals that many of the restrictions Frank believed had been placed on him by his castration have been a lie.
Themes
Control, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Sexism and Gender Roles Theme Icon