The Wasp Factory

by

Iain Banks

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The Wasp Factory: Chapter 7 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Frank recalls how he used to play horrible games with birds — shooting them, blowing them up, or tying two together and forcing them to fight to the death.
Much of Frank’s violence has a purpose, but this is death for the sake of entertainment only.
Themes
Control, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
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Tuesday morning Frank bikes into town to meet with Jamie. Jamie doesn’t understand, if Eric is so crazy, why no one has caught him yet. Frank hypothesizes that, although his behavior with dogs and maggots “looks pretty crazy,” maybe Eric isn’t “really crazy after all. Perhaps he just got fed up acting normal and decided to act crazy instead.” Frank also theorizes that maybe his whole family is crazy.  
Frank understands that if Eric is crazy, then he is probably crazy too, as he engages in similarly strange and violent behaviors. It benefits him then, to pretend that Eric isn’t, crazy, which would make Frank also sane by extension. Still, Frank recognizes that both of them act strangely, which is why he suggests that maybe his whole family is insane.
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Sanity and Insanity  Theme Icon
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Jamie and Frank play the arcade game Space Invaders and continue to talk. Frank remarks that there are people crazier than him or Angus is, who he sees as eccentrics. Jamie agrees, and suggests many of them are political or religious leaders. Frank counters maybe the powerfully are the only truly sane people, as they’ve figured out how to game the system.
It’s unclear how serious either Frank or Jamie is during this conversation. It’s one of the only opportunities the reader gets to see Frank interacting in a friendly, sober way with another human being, and it humanizes him more—but the normalcy of these interactions also highlights the bizarreness and brutality of Frank’s life on the island.
Themes
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Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
Sanity and Insanity  Theme Icon
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Frank bikes back to the island. He spends the afternoon tidying up the loft that holds the Wasp Factory. He decides to consult it tomorrow, making sure to get more information before Eric arrives.
Frank turns to the Factory for strength, control, and reassurance. Eric makes him nervous, and so he hopes the Factory will help him.
Themes
Ritual and Superstition  Theme Icon
Control, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
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Frank catches a wasp to use in the Factory. Then he builds a dam in a nearby river. It is huge and complicated, with the potential to devastate two tiny villages. He blows it up with a tiny homemade electrical bomb. As the little cities flood Frank experiences “a gorgeous feeling of excitement” in his stomach and throat. Frank waits for the stream to settle down, and then collects the husk of the bomb.
Frank is nervous about his brother’s imminent arrival, and so builds a dam to give himself some sense of control. It is initially unclear whether Frank is using the bomb for ritualistic purposes, or merely for his own entertainment.
Themes
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Control, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Frank explains, “all our lives are symbols. Everything we do is part of a pattern we have at least some say in.” The strong are able to make their own patterns, while the weak act according to other’s patterns. Frank relates this to the Wasp Factor. The Factory, as part of life, and part of death, is part of the pattern. Because, he believes, “every question is a start looking for an end” the Factory, which is about death, can answer them. 
Frank believes that the Wasp Factory can help both decode the future and untangle the present. He believes life is made up of symbols, and the Wasp Factory merely helps him become better at reading them. Implicitly, reading these symbols gives him insight into the workings of the world, which makes him powerful.
Themes
Ritual and Superstition  Theme Icon
Control, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Sanity and Insanity  Theme Icon
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Frank is certain the Wasp Factory will give him a sense of the future. Then he will contact Eric using Old Saul’s skull. Frank believes that “at some deep level” he and Eric “understand each other, even though he is mad and I am sane.”
Although Frank genuinely believes the Wasp Factory can help him tell the future, and Old Saul’s skull can function as a walkie-talkie, he still thinks of himself as sane and Eric as crazy.
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
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Frank has a theory that “both sexes can do one thing specially well; women can give birth, and men can kill.” Frank considers himself “an honorary man,” and feels death in his “uncastrated genes.” He believes this connection with Eric will be enough to telepathically reach out to him. 
Frank’s theories of gender are directly based on his own sense of his lacking masculine power. Although he does not have male genitalia he identifies as a man, and as a result he is excessively violent in order to prove himself.
Themes
Control, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Sexism and Gender Roles Theme Icon