The Wasp Factory

by

Iain Banks

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Old Saul Character Analysis

The old Cauldhame family bulldog who supposedly castrated three-year-old Frank. Old Saul was always mean and combative, but his attack on Frank was the final straw—afterwards Angus strangled the dog and buried him behind the house. Frank sees Old Saul as the source of his misery, but also believes he can reclaim his power from the dog. Many years later, Frank excavates Old Saul’s skull and uses it for rituals, and kills his little brother, Paul, who was born the same day that Old Saul castrated him, and who he sees as a reincarnation of the animal.

Old Saul Quotes in The Wasp Factory

The The Wasp Factory quotes below are all either spoken by Old Saul or refer to Old Saul. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Ritual and Superstition  Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Simon & Schuster edition of The Wasp Factory published in 1998.
Chapter 1 Quotes

I thought again of the Sacrifice Poles; more deliberately this time, picturing each one in turn, remembering their positions and their components, seeing in my mind what those sightless eyes looked out to, and flickering through each view like a security guard changing cameras on a monitor screen. I felt nothing amiss; all seemed well. My dead sentries, those extensions of me which came under my power through the simple but ultimate surrender of death, sensed nothing to harm me or the island.

I opened my eyes and put the bedside light back on. I looked at myself in the mirror on the dressing-table over on the other side of the room. I was lying on top of the bed-covers, naked apart from my underpants.

I’m too fat. It isn’t that bad, and it isn’t my fault – but, all the same, I don’t like the way I’d like to look. Chubby, that’s me. Strong and fit, but still too plump. I want to look dark and menacing; the way I ought to look, the way I should look, the way I might have looked if I hadn’t had my little accident. Looking at me, you’d never guess I’d killed three people. It isn’t fair.

Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 2 Quotes

Eric in particular was very upset. He cried like a girl. I wanted to kill Blyth there and then; the hiding he got from his father, my dad’s brother James, was not enough as far as I was concerned, not for what he’d done to Eric, my brother. Eric was inconsolable, desperate with grief because he had made the thing Blyth had used to destroy our beloved pets. He always was a bit sentimental, always the sensitive one, the bright one; until his nasty experience everybody was sure he would go far. Anyway, that was the start of the Skull Grounds, the area of the big, old, partially earthed-over dune behind the house where all our pets went when they died. The burned rabbits started that. Old Saul was before them, but that was just a one-off thing.

Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes

The rocks of the Bomb Circle usually get me thinking and this time was no exception, especially considering the way I’d lain down inside them like some Christ or something, opened to the sky dreaming of death. Well, Paul went about as quickly as you can go; I was certainly humane that time. Blyth had lots of time to realise what was happening, jumping about the Snake Park screaming as the frantic and enraged snake bit his stump repeatedly, and little Esmerelda must have had some inkling what was going to happen to her as she was slowly blown away.

My brother Paul was five when I killed him. I was eight. It was over two years after I had subtracted Blyth with an adder that I found an opportunity to get rid of Paul. Not that I bore him any personal ill-will; it was simply that I knew he couldn’t stay. I knew I’d never be free of the dog until he was gone (Eric, poor well-meaning bright but ignorant Eric, thought I still wasn’t, and I just couldn’t tell him why I was).

Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

I lay in bed. Soon I would have to try some long-range fixing of this problem. It was the only way. I’d have to try to influence things through the root cause of it all: Old Saul himself. Some heavy medicine was required if Eric wasn’t to wreck single-handedly the entire Scottish telephone network and decimate the country’s canine population. First, though, I would have to consult the Factory again.

It wasn’t exactly my fault, but I was totally involved, and I might just be able to do something about it, with the skull of the ancient hound, the Factory’s help and a little luck. How susceptible my brother would be to whatever vibes I could send out was a question I didn’t like too much to think about, given the state of his head, but I had to do something.

I hoped the little puppy had got well away. Dammit, I didn’t hold all dogs to blame for what happened. Old Saul was the culprit, Old Saul had gone down in our history and my personal mythology as the Castraitor, but thanks to the little creatures who flew the creek I had him in my power now.

Eric was crazy all right, even if he was my brother. He was lucky to have somebody sane who still liked him.

Related Symbols: Old Saul’s Skull
Page Number: 103
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 12 Quotes

I want to laugh or cry or both, as I sit here, thinking about my own life, my three deaths. Four deaths now, in a way, now that my father’s truth has murdered what I was.

But I am still me; I am the same person, with the same memories and the same deeds done, the same (small) achievements, the same (appalling) crimes to my name.

Page Number: 182
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Wasp Factory PDF

Old Saul Character Timeline in The Wasp Factory

The timeline below shows where the character Old Saul appears in The Wasp Factory. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3: In the Bunker
Ritual and Superstition  Theme Icon
...kind of shrine. Inside he has filled it with candles and the skull of Old Saul. He has placed a candle in the dog’s skull, and lights it. (full context)
Chapter 4: The Bomb Circle
Ritual and Superstition  Theme Icon
Control, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
Sanity and Insanity  Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 5: A Bunch of Flowers
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
...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... (full context)
Chapter 6: The Skull Grounds
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
Sexism and Gender Roles Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Ritual and Superstition  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... (full context)
Ritual and Superstition  Theme Icon
Control, Violence, and Power 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... (full context)
Ritual and Superstition  Theme Icon
Control, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Sexism and Gender Roles Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Chapter 7: Space Invaders
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
...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... (full context)
Chapter 8: The Wasp Factory
Ritual and Superstition  Theme Icon
Control, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Ritual and Superstition  Theme Icon
Control, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Sanity and Insanity  Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Chapter 12: What Happened to Me
Control, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Sexism and Gender Roles Theme Icon
...I know the truth. I’m a woman.” Only Frances’s labia was chewed up by Old Saul. Frances still has fully working female genitalia and reproductive organs. Still, Frances has no present... (full context)