The Wasp Factory

by

Iain Banks

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The Wasp Factory: Chapter 6 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
When Frank was three his mother, Agnes, who had been absent his entire life, returned to the island on her motorcycle. She was pregnant with some other man’s child, but expected Angus to care for her and deliver her baby. Initially resistant, Angus spent the next three weeks caring for the mother of his second son. Frank enjoyed terrorizing Old Saul, and one afternoon, as Agnes went into labor, attended by Angus and Mrs Clamp, the pair heard barks and a scream from outside. Angus rushed downstairs to find Frank bloody and unconscious, and Old Saul hiding with blood on his jaws. Angus strangled Old Saul, just as, upstairs, Agnes gave birth to Paul.
Much of Frank’s hatred of women likely stems from his mother. She was not present in his life, and he holds her responsible for a series of disasters that befell his family, one of those being Frank’s castration. Although Old Saul was always around, Frank was only allowed to be unsupervised with the dog because Agnes had taken both Angus and Mrs Clamp’s attention.
Themes
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
Sexism and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Two days later, Agnes left on her motorcycle, leaving Paul behind. Angus tried to stop her, but she ran over his leg and took off. Frank remarks sourly that after only two weeks on the island Agnes “left one dead, one born, and two crippled for life…not a bad score.”
Although Frank doesn’t care about Paul at all, he nonetheless includes his abandonment on the list of reasons why he hates Agnes, and women in general.
Themes
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
Sexism and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Old Saul’s skull was buried on a hill behind the house, which Frank eventually named the Skull Grounds. Angus claimed to have cut Old Saul open and retrieved Frank’s genitals, but Frank has never seen them.
Because Old Saul took his masculine power from him, Frank believes he can reclaim some of it by taking control of the skull.
Themes
Ritual and Superstition  Theme Icon
Sexism and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Frank believes “Paul, of course, was Saul.” The spirit of the dog “transferred” to the boy. That’s why Paul was named partially after the dog. Frank thinks it is lucky that he found this out and killed Paul become he could grow older and more evil.
Paul was born the day Old Saul died, and so in Frank’s mind, Paul is a reincarnation of Old Saul. Additionally, their similar names suggest some deep connection.
Themes
Ritual and Superstition  Theme Icon
Control, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
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Frank had to kill his pet gerbils, mice, and hamsters so he could find Old Saul’s skull. He wasn’t allowed to dig up the pet graveyard; instead, he killed dozens of rodents by firing them into the creek with the Killer so he would have an excuse to excavate gravesites. After thirty-seven “flight experiments,” and thirty-seven graves dug, Frank finally uncovered Old Saul’s bones. Frank was happy to have “my old enemy in my power.” He excavated Old Saul’s skull and put it in the Bunker, surrounded by “heavy magic” and “important things.”
Again it’s reinforced that Frank finds a sense of control in possessing certain objects. He believes that, by reclaiming the skull of the animal that castrated him, he will reclaim some of the masculine power that was stolen from him. Because his father forbids him to dig up the skull, he buys and kills pets so he can have an excuse the search the hill for the remains of his dog.
Themes
Ritual and Superstition  Theme Icon
Control, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Sexism and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Still, Frank notes that his “enemy is twice dead,” and yet he remains less than “a full man.” However, he considers Eric’s dog burning to be “just nonsense.”
Ironically, although Frank’s attachment to Old Saul’s skull is purely superstitious, he believes Eric’s dog-killing to be irrational.
Themes
Ritual and Superstition  Theme Icon
Control, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Sanity and Insanity  Theme Icon