The Wasp Factory

by

Iain Banks

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The Wasp Factory: Chapter 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Frank’s “greatest enemies are Women and the Sea.” He hates women because he believes them to be “weak and stupid” and inferior to men. He hates the sea because it always destroys what he has built, “wiping clean the marks” he has made. The sea is a “mythological enemy”—both feared and respected. Women, in contrast, are a more domestic enemy, because they “are a bit too close for comfort.”
Because Frank believes he has been castrated and has no male genitalia, he also believes he is physically close to women. As a result, he must separate himself from them somehow — which is why he created these strict, sexist ideas of the differences between the genders. Frank’s hatred of the sea is related to a hatred of feeling powerless.
Themes
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Sexism and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Frank prepares for the day. He goes through his daily ritual of cleaning himself. He notes that all of his “ablutions” follow “a definite and predetermined pattern.” He dresses himself with similar precision.
Frank’s rituals extend beyond the Poles and the Factory to his daily routine and hygienic maintenance. He exercises strict control over every aspect of his life.
Themes
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Control, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Frank leaves the house, and as he walks across the island a few jets fly overhead. He recalls how once a jet made him jump, and in retribution he built a plastic model of a jet and blew it up. Two weeks later a jet crashed into the ocean. Frank likes to think “the Power was working,” but suspects “it was a coincidence.”
Frank at once believes in the power of superstition and magical connections, while also feeling that he is too smart to believe in the power of coincidence. In the end, he believes in it enough to engage in rituals and create voodoo dolls, but he does not believe in it enough to think that his actions had any impact on the wider world.
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Control, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Sanity and Insanity  Theme Icon
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Frank goes to visit a sapling he has named the Killer. He recalls using it to fire hamsters, mice, and gerbils across the creek. He explains that this destruction “was all for a purpose…I was looking for Old Saul’s skull.” 
Frank believed he could reclaim the power Old Saul took from him when he castrated Frank if he could be in possession of Old Saul’s skull.
Themes
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Control, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
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Frank visits the Bunker. The Bunker is an old concrete pillbox guard post, which formerly housed a machine gun. Frank has repaired the rusted door and converted it into a kind of shrine. Inside he has filled it with candles and the skull of Old Saul. He has placed a candle in the dog’s skull, and lights it.
Frank’s Bunker is a site for ritual. He has imbued it with a kind of magical, spiritual purpose, and filled it with objects, like Old Saul’s skull, that give power to both him and the space.
Themes
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As the candle burns, Frank reflects on the past few days. He then imagines an alternative version of himself, “a tall slim man, strong and determined and making his way in the world, assured and purposeful.”
Frank equates masculinity with strength. He believes that had he not been castrated and denied male hormones he would look like a powerful man.
Themes
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Sexism and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Frank then begins a ritual—taking the cadaver of a wasp which has been through the Factory, and lighting it on a pyre of sugar and weed killer. He inspects the patterns of the incinerated wasp, but sees nothing.
Frank continually looks for clues to the future in his ritual objects. Here, he hopes the Factory will provide him some clues as to what is in store for him. However, even when he finds nothing, his faith is not diminished.
Themes
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After his ritual, Frank returns home. Angus has returned and is chopping wood in the garden. Frank offers to make lunch, but Angus volunteers to do it instead.
Angus almost always prepares food for his son, which is nurturing but also another way of controlling his behavior and his body.
Themes
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That afternoon, Frank rides into town on his bike. He buys some air-gun pellets and a new catapult. Then he goes to the café, where he looks at movie posters on the walls and considers his relationship with Angus. Frank and his father have an “unspoken agreement,” that as long as Frank stays out of trouble Angus will buy him almost anything he wants. Frank isn’t sure if he loves his father, or if his father loves him. Frank had hoped to see someone he knew in town, but only sees the storekeepers—Mackenzie who sold him the catapult, and Mrs. Stuart in the café. He explains that he doesn’t know many people his own age. His only real friend is a man named Jamie.
Frank often reflects upon his relationship with his father. He doesn’t care about many people — just himself, his brother Eric, and his friend, Jamie. That his father is related to him is not enough to guarantee that he will care, but he has spent his entire life with Angus, and understands that Angus has worked to educate him and keep him alive, which means he isn’t totally uninterested in Frank’s wellbeing.
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Frank continues, explaining that after “Eric went crazy” it was harder to socialize in town. He became associated with his brother, or else mistaken for Eric altogether. Plus, Frank suspects that many parents guessed about his connection to the deaths of Blyth, Paul, and Esmerelda.
Frank doesn’t mind that his family has been ostracized and rejected by the town because of Eric. He also understands that his own actions have turned people against him. Frank has never needed human connection to thrive, and so barely sees his family’s reputation as a burden.
Themes
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Frank returns home, and makes some bombs from his mixture of sugar and weed killer. He wishes he could use some of the cordite his father keeps locked in the cellar, but it is off limits. The explosive was discovered in an old warship by Frank’s grandfather, Colin Cauldhame. Colin used it domestically to light fires, and Angus did too for a while, but now he just watches over the stash. Frank believes that Angus is so careful with the cordite because of nervousness born out of the explosion with the Bomb Circle, and because of his own “little superstition…something about a link with the past, or an evil demon we have lurking, a symbol for all our family misdeeds.”
Always thinking about violence and destruction, once again Frank’s desires are restricted by his father’s control over the house where the two of them live. Angus’s nervousness about the cordite reveals two things — one, that superstition runs in the family, and two, that Angus suspects that Frank has dark secrets, but is uninterested in exploring them, instead settling for denying Frank access to truly powerful weapons.
Themes
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Control, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Over dinner, Angus tells Frank that the police are searching for Eric on the moors. Angus asks Frank if he has any requests for food to order from town. Frank wants mostly junk food, which Angus criticizes but permits. Angus wonders if Frank is going to town that evening. Frank says he plans to go out tomorrow, instead, and Angus warns him not to get too drunk. Angus claims he can tell how drunk Frank has gotten, and what he has had to drink, based on the quality of his farts. Frank thinks this is nonsense, but admits that Angus is generally correct in his fart-based inferences. 
Once again, Angus and Frank’s interaction is a struggle for power and control. Although Angus rarely chooses to restrict Frank’s movements or choices, his criticisms are meant to hurt Frank and break him down. However, after a lifetime of digs like these, Frank is essentially immune to his father’s attacks.
Themes
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After dinner, Frank watches television and amends his maps to include the newly named Black Destroyer Hill. He thinks back to a fight he had with local boys from the mainland, which led to him beginning to cache weapons. Although he notes that he doesn’t “want to kill anybody now,” having a secret stash of bombs, as well as his “Defence Manual” full of maps and tactics, makes him feel “secure.”
Once again, Frank demonstrates how poorly he gets along with everyone, especially boys his own age. He also shows how even the anticipation of violence (like organizing his stash of weapons) gives him a sense of power and control.
Themes
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Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
Frank stays up until almost eleven, and is surprised to hear the phone ring. It’s Eric. Angus comes out of his room and watches Frank take the phone call. Frank pretends Eric is his friend Jamie. Angus accepts this and returns to bed.
Although both Eric and Angus are family, Frank easily prioritizes his brother over his father, suspecting Angus will call the police or turn Eric in if he finds out he has been calling.
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Frank checks in on Eric—is he eating right, how is he getting around? Eric insists he no longer has to sleep.  Eric also says he’s mostly eating dogs, which upsets and disgusts Frank. Eric says he shoplifts, but only things he cannot eat. Frank wonders why he doesn’t just shoplift food, and stop eating dogs. Eric responds angrily, “Are you crazy?...These are dogs, aren’t they?” He continues to shout, getting out of control and smashing the receiver until the line goes dead. Frank goes to bed, all the while considering how to better handle Eric over the phone.
Frank cares about Eric and makes his concern with his brother’s wellbeing known. Eric, meanwhile, is seemingly not concerned with his own wellbeing. Although Frank’s behavior frequently reads as insane, in comparison to Eric, who literally eats dogs and cannot control his anger, Frank seems rather reserved and normal.
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