The Wasp Factory

by

Iain Banks

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The Wasp Factory: Chapter 12 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Sunday morning, Frank recalls a dream he had the previous night. The dream was based on a scene he had observed years earlier: two horses lived in a field together. One day, men came and took one of the horses. The other was distraught, crying and running in circles, but later in the day it had returned to normal, quietly eating grass.
Frank’s dream is a kind of metaphor for his life and trauma. Frank understands that something unforgivable was done to him, but over time he forgot the details, and went on to live a (relatively) normal life.
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The previous night Angus told Frank the truth. Then the pair barricaded the cellar, looked around for Eric, and went to bed. Now, Frank can see Diggs coming to talk to Angus. Frank leaves home to wander the island. He finds Eric sleeping on a dune, and wakes him up. Eric smiles when he sees, Frank, and Frank sits, letting Eric place his head in his lap and return to sleep.
Angus has been withholding the truth of Frank’s past from him. By withholding the truth, and sealing off the study, Angus would always have the power. Finally, however, Angus tells Frank the truth, thus giving up that form of control over his son.
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Frank repeats what Angus explained last night. Frank is not Francis Leslie Cauldhame. Instead, Frank is Frances Lesley Cauldhame. After Frances’s accident, Angus saw it as an opportunity to raise his daughter as a son, and began dosing Frances with male hormones.
Frank was not born Frank. Instead, Frank was born female, as Frances. (In the novel, Frances refers to herself as female from here on, so this chart will as well).
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This is why Angus always cooked, and why Frances had a beard and no periods. Angus also added bromide to the food to keep Frances from getting aroused by the extra androgen. Angus made fake genitals in case Frances ever asked too many questions. Angus even confessed to being friends with the barman, Duncan, who would report on Frances’s drinking habits. This, not Frances’s farts, is how Angus always knew what his child had been drinking.
Angus’s control of Frances began with her gender presentation, but extended to all areas of her life. The experiment was more than seeing if he could raise a daughter as a son; it was an exercise in total control of a child, as evidenced by the controlling way Angus ran her life, from educating her himself to checking in on her at the pub.
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Frances explains “part of me still wants to believe it’s just his latest lie, but really I know the truth. I’m a woman.” Only Frances’s labia was chewed up by Old Saul. Frances still has fully working female genitalia and reproductive organs. Still, Frances has no present desire to have sex or give birth. Frances considers “my one life, my three deaths,” amending it to my “four deaths now, in a way, now that my father’s truth has murdered what I was.” Still, Frances feels “I am still me,” “the same person, with the same memories and deeds done.”
Although Frances’s world has been turned upside down, she is able to adjust shockingly quickly. She sees her past, male self, as having died, but still feels like the same person as before. After all, she has the same memories, the same behaviors, the same relationships and desires. Because she had so deeply hated women and tied her identity to her lost masculinity, it’s difficult to believe at first, but Frances understands intuitively that Angus is telling her the truth.
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Frances considers the crimes of the past. Frances wonders if killing peers was a way to take revenge on those “who each would otherwise have grown into the one thing I could never become: an adult.”  Frances wonders if the false memory of castration had lead to a kind of “penis envy,” a desire to “out-man” everyone nearby by acting as a “killer,” a “ruthless,” masculine, “soldier-hero.”
Frances sees that her violent, sometimes murderous behavior was a desire to right the wrong she believed had been done to her. Because she believed she was sterile and could not reproduce, she killed instead. She fixated on children because they, she mistakenly believed, would grow into adults, something she thought she could not do without her genitals.
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Frances now feels the actions of the past were “for nothing. There was no revenge that needed taking.” Frances believed sex was impossible, and so killed instead, as a kind of “conception.” The Factory, meanwhile, was another attempt to create life.
Also stemming from her belief that she couldn’t reproduce was Frances’ desire to create in other ways. This is why she created the Wasp Factory, which served, in her mind, as a kind of surrogate child.
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Frances explains that each person lives their life in his or her own personal Factory, and although they might believe they have “stumbled down one corridor, and that [their] fate is sealed,” anything can alter a person’s life path. Even though everyone dies in the end, everyone has a unique journey “part chosen, part determined,” which “changes even as we live and grow.” Frances “thought one door had snicked shut behind me,” but in fact, Frances has been “crawling about the face.” It is only now that Frances’s life truly begins.
Frances had believed that the most important thing that would ever happen to her was her castration at age three. Now, however, she sees the most important thing as this realization: that she is not a castrated man, but a biological woman. There are no physical limitations place on her, and likely no legal ones either (although never discussed explicitly, Frances probably does have a birth certificate, it just shows that she is female). Frances is surprisingly forgiving and open when discussing the years of confusion behind her. She is just grateful that she has a new life ahead.
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Frances looks down at Eric, and thinks how funny that Eric has come home to see his brother, but will instead discover he has a sister.
Francis easily mentally transitions from male to female. It doesn’t affect who she is, or who she cares about. She still feels like herself, and still loves her brother. How Eric will react to this information, though, is of course unknowable.
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