The Wasp Factory

by

Iain Banks

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The Wasp Factory: Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next day, early in the morning, Frank does his morning ritual and goes upstairs to the Factory. He sets the jar with the previously captured wasp on an alter decorated with other powerful objects — the skull of the snake that killed Blyth, a fragment of the bomb that killed Paul, a piece of fabric from the kite that killed Esmerelda, some of Old Saul’s teeth.  Frank begins his ritual. He holds his crotch and chants — telling the truth about who he is, what he wants, and who he has killed.
Frank’s daily life is governed by habit and ritual. It is unclear if his adherence to the ritual of the Wasp Factory bled into his domestic routines, or his need for organization and control led to the creation of the Wasp Factory’s rituals. The ritual requires various powerful objects, all of which have acquired their power through violence or death.
Themes
Ritual and Superstition  Theme Icon
Control, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Frank describes the Wasp Factory. It is the face of an old enormous public clock, a meter across. In the center is a hole where the hands formerly attached, which is where the wasp is let into the factory. Attached to the face, one at each numeral, are twelve corridors. Each leads the wasp to certain death — by electrocution, spider, poison, etc. — but depending on which corridor it selects Frank is taught a different lesson.
Unsurprisingly, as violence plays such an important role in Frank’s daily life, death and torture play a role in the Wasp Factory as well. Actually seeing the Wasp Factory, as opposed to simply hearing it referenced, helps underscore how truly strange (even insane) Frank is.
Themes
Ritual and Superstition  Theme Icon
Control, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Sanity and Insanity  Theme Icon
Today, Frank’s wasp dies by petrol fire. He takes its charred body and puts it in a matchbox, performing a series of rituals with the corpse — including holding it to his forehead before his alter — before he allows himself to leave. He takes a photo of Eric formerly situated on the altar with him as he goes. Frank walks to the Bunker. Usually, the Factory is not specific. It makes him nervous that it has given him the same answer — fire — twice.
Although Frank has great faith in the Wasp Factory, it never gives him a clear answer. Even now, giving him fire twice in a row clarifies very little — he doesn’t know whether he should use fire to his advantage, should be cautious of fire, or should expect one. Still, Frank trusts it totally.
Themes
Ritual and Superstition  Theme Icon
Sanity and Insanity  Theme Icon
In the Bunker, Frank thinks of Eric. He remembers who he was as a child — once “clever” and “kind,” now he is “a mad angel,” a “force of fire and disruption,” “madness and delusion.”
Frank loved and continues to love his brother, even though Eric’s insanity turned him into an almost entirely new person.
Themes
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Sanity and Insanity  Theme Icon
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Frank places one hand on Old Saul’s skull, closes his eyes, and pictures Eric’s face. He feels himself transported into Eric’s mind and body. He feels Eric’s tired feet, the taste of meat and fur on his tongue. But before Frank can get any more information, a blast shocks him out of his trance.   Frank feels condiment he had almost succeeded. However, he believes Eric’s “lunatic strength” was too strong for a “sane” person to cope with. Even Frank’s brain, which he believes to be “far from normal and more powerful than most,” was unable to match Eric’s passion and drive to destroy and to make it home. 
Frank he hopes Old Saul’s skull can somehow connect him telepathically to Eric. He believes that this works, briefly, but Eric is too insane, and too powerful, for Frank to stay in his mind for long. Frank is far from normal, and so it is ironic that he sees Eric as so much crazier than he is that the two could not occupy the same mental space.
Themes
Ritual and Superstition  Theme Icon
Control, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Sanity and Insanity  Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Frank falls asleep watching television. The phone wakes him some time later. He’s disappointed to find it’s Jamie calling, not Eric. Jamie has hurt his foot and is off work for the week. Frank says he’ll come around to see him. Jamie wonders if Frank has heard from Eric. He hasn’t, but discloses that he wants to see Eric, but doesn’t want Eric to do all the “daft things he did before.” Frank knows it is impossible to want both things. 
Frank understands that the Eric he misses the most is the Eric that is gone — his sane brother. Still, he’ll settle for whatever version of his brother eventually arrives on the island, understanding his desire is impossible. 
Themes
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Sanity and Insanity  Theme Icon
Frank hangs up the phone and it rings again. He picks it up, assuming it’s Jamie, but this time it is Eric. Eric is immediately angry that Frank mistook him for someone else. Eric is especially angry that Frank mistook him for Jamie, who he calls, “That dwarf.” Frank pushes back, asking, “What do you mean, ‘that dwarf’, in that tone? He’s my friend. It isn’t his fault he’s small.”
Although Frank often goes out of his way not to offend or upset Eric, he cares enough about Jamie that he will risk setting Eric off in order to defend his friend.
Themes
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Sanity and Insanity  Theme Icon
Eric argues back for a minute shouting into the phone, and then switches into a calmer voice. He tells Frank he’s almost there, but won’t say where he is, only that he’s broken into somebody’s cottage for the night. Frank wonders if Eric felt anything strange that morning (when Frank tried to connect with him psychically). Eric tells him he was sleeping. Eric becomes bored with the phone call and hangs up, leaving Frank “fuming and belligerent.”
Frank likes to feel as though he is powerful and in control, which is easier when Eric is acting obviously crazy. Here, however, Eric flips the script, acting rational while Frank gets increasingly frustrated.
Themes
Ritual and Superstition  Theme Icon
Control, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Sanity and Insanity  Theme Icon