The Wasp Factory

by

Iain Banks

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The Wasp Factory: Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Frank explains that he killed Esmerelda because, after killing two boys, he felt he had to do his part to correct the resultant gender imbalance. Esmerelda was an easy target.
Esmerelda’s murder was motivated only by Frank’s hatred of women, and a compulsion to make the gender breakdown of his murders more symmetrical.
Themes
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Control, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
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Frank sensed that Esmerelda’s parents were suspicious of him, but they let Esmerelda visit the island one summer anyway. He knew it was risky to kill another child only a year after killing Paul, but he felt compelled to. Frank describes the feelings as “an itch, something I had no way of resisting.” He feels the need to “keep balanced” in his daily life—if he scuffs one shoe on accident, he must then scuff the other—and so in this he feels the need to “get rid of some woman, tip the scales back.”
Frank didn’t want to kill Esmerelda in the same way he wanted to kill Paul or Blyth. Instead, he feels compelled to. He seems to have obsessive-compulsive tendencies related to order and control (which can also be seen in his morning rituals and the Wasp Factory), which have spilled over into his ritualistic acts of violence.
Themes
Ritual and Superstition  Theme Icon
Control, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Sanity and Insanity  Theme Icon
Sexism and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Related Quotes
That summer Frank made many kites, and took Esmerelda with him. This gave him his fatal idea. Secretly, he constructed a giant kite out of tent poles and tent fabric, so powerful that Frank himself could barely control it. The day he finished the kite he gave it to Esmerelda to fly. He tied her wrists to it, telling her it was so she “wouldn’t lose her grip.” Then he helped her catch a breeze, and let the kite carry her off.
Frank nonchalantly recounts the murder of his young cousin. Her relation to him did not make him feel any kind of obligation to her. He felt compelled to kill someone female, and she was the easiest target.
Themes
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Frank knew that the fact of three nearby deaths was suspicious, so he planned out his response to Esmerelda’s disappearance. He acted nearly catatonic, refusing to speak to anyone, alternately feigning sleep and then waking with (fake) nightmares. For a week Frank pretended to recover, letting slip pieces of the truth to Angus and Diggs—Esmerelda was tangled up in a big kite, he tried to save her and failed. Frank gleefully recalls the murder. He relates, “I got to even up the score and have a wonderful, if demanding, week of fun acting.”
Frank’s memory of Esmerelda’s murder is one of the most disturbing recollections of violence in the novel. His total lack of motivation, and his total lack of remorse, make Frank seem callous, cruel, and potentially sociopathic. Not only does he feel no guilt or shame, but the murder brought him joy, and he loves the game of deceiving the adults in his life.
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Hung-over, Frank spends Sunday in bed. When he eventually comes downstairs, Angus criticizes him for drinking. That night the phone rings, and Frank eagerly answers. It’s Eric. Dissatisfied with how Frank answered the phone, Eric hangs up. Then he calls back, forcing Frank to try again. 
Although Angus has little control over Frank, his criticisms attempt to take back some power from his son.
Themes
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Eric pretends to be Frank, frustrating his brother. In turn, Eric is frustrated that Frank isn’t playing his game, and becomes agitated when Angus wakes up and listens to the phone call, causing Frank to pretend he is talking to Jamie. Eric angrily responds to this, asking Frank if he has forgotten his own brother’s name. Eventually, Angus goes back upstairs.
Sometimes Eric sounds almost sane on the phone, but tonight is not one of those nights. Frank is frustrated by Eric, but loves and cares about him, and does his best to protect him from their eavesdropping father.
Themes
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Frank thinks he can hear a dog in the phone booth from which Eric is calling. Alarmed by this, Frank yells at Eric, who accidentally lets the dog escape. He blames Frank for distracting him. Frank hangs up on his brother. In bed the night Frank decides he will have to “try to influence things through the root cause of it all: Old Saul himself.” He hopes he can somehow use the Factory, and Old Saul’s skull to send “vibes” out to Eric.  Frank explains that he doesn’t “hold all dogs to blame for what had happened.” In Frank’s mind, Old Saul “had gone down in our history and my personal mythology as the Castraitor,” but believes to have “him in my power now.”
Both Frank and Eric blame Old Saul for Frank’s castration, and have tried to take revenge upon the dog. Frank believes that by killing Paul, who he thinks was the reincarnation of Old Saul, and by exhuming Old Saul’s skull, he now has the dog totally in his power. Eric, meanwhile, sees all dogs as representatives of Old Saul, and so kills them indiscriminately to take revenge upon the deceased family pet. Frank, ironically, sees Eric’s behavior as crazy and futile.
Themes
Ritual and Superstition  Theme Icon
Control, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
Sanity and Insanity  Theme Icon
Sexism and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Frank believes Eric to be crazy, but still cares for him, and remarks Eric is “lucky to have somebody sane who still liked him.”
Frank’s bond with his brother cannot be broken by anything — Frank now just sees Eric’s insane behavior as part of him, another aspect to love.
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