The Wasp Factory

by

Iain Banks

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The Wasp Factory: Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Frank thinks of himself as “a state; a country or, at the very least, a city.” His moods frequently change, as though different mental political parties are coming into power. Because sometimes Frank has contradicting thoughts and feelings, it is easier for him to conceptualize his emotions as “lots of different people inside my brain.” Frank feels a little guilty about having killed Blyth, Paul and Esmerelda. Similarly, a part of him feels guilty for massacring the rabbits.
Frank often appears as callous and emotionless, but he is more complicated than his many murders would make him appear. Although he doesn’t consciously regret having killed his brother and cousins, part of his mind is still guilty. He isn’t entirely emotionless or psychopathic, but is capable of selective empathy and kindness.
Themes
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Frank admits that there was no need to murder the rabbits. “Like the death penalty, you want it because it makes you feel better, not because it’s a deterrent or any nonsense like that.” Frank admits to himself that killing and violence are for the sake of his own pride and pleasure.
Frank’s violence often has a ritualistic or spiritual motivation, but sometimes, he kills just for the sake of killing. Frank feels pleasure and power when he is committing acts of violence.
Themes
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Frank conducts a naming ceremony for his catapult, smearing it with “earwax, snot, blood, urine, belly-button fluff and toenail cheese.” He also crumples an old photograph of Paul around a ball bearing, and fires it into the ocean. He admits, “parts of me thought this was nonsense, but they were in a tiny minority. The rest of me knew this sort of thing worked. It gave me power.”
Frank uses rituals to make himself feel powerful and in control. Although he thinks of himself as smart and rational, almost too reserved for behavior like this, he also genuinely believes it works, and is unwilling to give up his superstitions.
Themes
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Control, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Frank goes for a run. He jogs, then springs to the Bomb Circle, where he collapses in the sand. As he rests, he considers how the Bomb Circle, Angus’s injured leg, and Frank’s many dead pets are all the fault of Agnes, his mother, who disliked children, sent Eric away to Belfast when he was a toddler, and only came to the island twice, once to give birth to Frank and once to give birth to Paul
Frank rarely takes responsibility for his own actions. He instead blames compulsions, or superstitions, or women, who he hates more than anything. Frank’s hatred of his mother is somewhat justified — she abandoned him and his brother as a child — although his extrapolation that all women are thus deserving of hatred is unfair.
Themes
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Sexism and Gender Roles Theme Icon
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Frank reflects on Paul’s death. Frank was eight when he killed Paul, who was only five. Frank held no grudge against Paul, but knew he’d “never be free of the dog [Old Saul] until” Paul was gone. Frank notes that Eric, who doesn’t know Frank killed Paul, believes that Frank is still not free of Old Saul.
Frank believed that Old Saul was reincarnated in Paul. Since Old Saul had castrated him and taken his power, Frank believed the only way to reclaim some of his power was to kill Old Saul once again.
Themes
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Control, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
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Related Quotes
Frank always treated Paul well (perhaps, Frank thinks in hindsight, because he knew he would kill Paul young). One day, the two of them were at the beach, and Frank spotted an old bomb, half submerged in the sand. Although he had no plans to kill Paul that day, he couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Frank convinced Paul it was an old bell, and told him to hit it with a piece of wood to ring it. Frank walked far away, and gave Paul the signal. Paul hit the bomb with a piece of wood until it exploded, killing him.
Although Paul was his little brother, Frank did not see this as a reason to preserve or protect his life. In Frank’s mind, Paul was a reincarnation of Old Saul, and Old Saul had stolen power from Frank by castrating him, and so, logically, Paul had to die.
Themes
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Control, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
Sanity and Insanity  Theme Icon
Frank pretended to be distraught over Paul’s death. He didn’t mind play-acting, but did feel guilty about deceiving Eric, who he is sure wouldn’t have understood. Frank thinks Diggs suspected him, but was unable to prove anything.
Frank keeps few secrets from Eric, but he does hide all of his murders from his brother. While he keeps the secret from Diggs and his father so that he won’t be locked away, he keeps secrets from his brother because he worries Eric would hate him.
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That night, Frank goes into to town. He meets his only friend, Jamie, at the Cauldhame Arms, a hotel and music venue. He lets Jamie sit on his shoulders so he can see the stage more clearly.
Frank cares about very few people, but Jamie is his only friend. Often selfish, Frank goes out of his way to be kind and helpful to his friend.
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Frank tells Jamie about Eric’s escape. Jamie is surprised that Frank isn’t more panicked. Frank explains that he hopes Eric isn’t captured and makes it home. He wants to see his brother.
Eric and Jamie are the only two people Frank truly cares about. Although he knows Eric is dangerous and insane, he still loves him and wants to see him.
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Once the music has started, Frank and Jamie dance. Jamie is still on Frank’s shoulders, and although Frank doesn’t like girls, he’ll dance with them if Jamie wants to.
Jamie is also one of two people in the world Frank will make concessions for. Because he cares about his friend, he will even interact with women, who usually disgust him.
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Frank is unhappy at the end of the night when Jamie finds a girl to talk to. Frank is also very drunk, and worries that he’ll vomit. Jamie asks to get down from Frank’s shoulders, and together with the girl the pair of them help support Frank out of the pub. Although the girl is genuinely being kind to Frank, he thinks unkind thoughts about her. He thinks, “I expected she would just let me crack my skull on the pavement because women like to see men helpless.”
Although Frank thinks of himself as incredibly intelligent and perceptive, he has a blind spot when it comes to women. Although the girl from the pub, along with Jamie, is helping him and attempting to care for him, he ignores this evidence and instead thinks cruel thoughts about the callousness and selfishness of women.
Themes
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The girl asks if Jamie always sits on Frank’s shoulders. Jamie says yes, and jokes that in the bathroom he pees into the tank on the back of the toilet, while Frank pees into the bowl. Frank is upset by this, as he can only pee on the toilet sitting down because of his accident, and he is insecure about this. 
Although Frank and Jamie are close friends, they are still capable of accidentally hurting one another. Frank is insecure about his genitals because of his castration, and doesn’t like to discuss his lack of a penis, which prevents him from peeing in the way he thinks a man should always pee.
Themes
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Frank, in addition to being nauseated, also needs to pee. He doesn’t want to pee in front of the girl, but is too drunk to explain what he needs. Instead, he bolts down a side street, running until Jamie and the girl are out of sight. Jamie runs after him, and catches Frank as he squats to pee in front of a garage.
Jamie cares about Frank, and is the only character in the entire novel who goes out of his way to help his friend. Angus rarely makes compromises for Frank, and although Eric has escaped form prison, it is unclear why.
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Frank starts to vomit, and Jamie helps support him, holding him in his arms when it’s over, and wiping Frank’s mouth with paper towels. Jamie then takes Frank to his house, where Jamie’s mother makes the pair tea. Frank doesn’t mind her so much, even though she is a woman.
Jamie is a good friend to Frank, who, earlier in the night, was a good friend to Jamie. It’s one of Frank’s only reciprocally kind relationships.
Themes
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Frank sobers up at Jamie’s house, and then walks home around one in the morning. As he walks he remembers walking home another night a few years ago. Out on the ocean that night he saw strange lights flickering in the air. He realized that they must be “gas-flares of oil-rigs maybe hundreds of kilometres away, out in the North Sea.” He was happy to have come to this conclusion, as he suspects “somebody less logical and less imaginative would have jumped to the conclusion that what they had seen were UFOs.”
Frank thinks of himself as smart and perceptive, although also with an affinity for the supernatural and strange. Seeing the lights over the ocean, he is proud of himself for being creative enough to consider that they might be alien spacecraft, but logical enough to identify their true cause.
Themes
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Sanity and Insanity  Theme Icon