The Wasp Factory


Iain Banks

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The Specimen Jar Symbol Analysis

The Specimen Jar Symbol Icon

In the book’s final chapters, Frank breaks into Angus’s office and discovers what he thinks are his genitals preserved in a jar. Seeing what he believes to be his own testicles preserved like this presents Frank with the fullness of his loss. The missing genitals represent more than a physical injury—to Frank, they represent a stolen future. His vision of himself as a man is different than who he currently is, and has the potential to be. However, in the final chapters Angus smashes the jar, revealing the genitals to be clay. Frank was born Frances and never had any male genitals to begin with. The destruction of the jar then becomes the end of the lie that was Frances’s life, freeing Frances to live a life as a woman if she chooses to.

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The Specimen Jar Symbol Timeline in The Wasp Factory

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Specimen Jar appears in The Wasp Factory. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 11: The Prodigal
Sexism and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Inside the study Frank finds a specimen jar that holds a “tiny, torn set of male genitalia.” Seeing them, Frank cries at his... (full context)
Control, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Sexism and Gender Roles Theme Icon
...asks Angus to sit down and explain some things to him. Angus had brought the specimen jar downstairs with him, and now reaches for it. He knocks it to the ground where... (full context)