The Wasp Factory

by

Iain Banks

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A contraption Frank has created that answers questions about the world. Frank releases a wasp into the factory when he needs an answer, and depending on how it moves through the contraption, he infers a different conclusion. The factory itself is an enormous clock face, with twelve corridors attaching to each of the twelve numerals. At the end of each corridor is a different chamber that will kill the wasp in a different way—by electrocution, by carnivorous plant, by poison, fire, or spider.

Wasp Factory Quotes in The Wasp Factory

The The Wasp Factory quotes below are all either spoken by Wasp Factory or refer to Wasp Factory. For each quote, you can also see the other terms 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

I realise that you can never really win against the water; it will always triumph in the end, seeping and soaking and building up and undermining and overflowing. All you can really do is construct something that will divert it or block its way for a while; persuade it to do something it doesn’t really want to do. The pleasure comes from the elegance of the compromise you strike between where the water wants to go (guided by gravity and the medium it’s moving over) and what you want to do with it.

Actually I think life has few pleasures to compare with dam-building. Give me a good broad beach with a reasonable slope and not too much seaweed, and a fair-sized stream, and I’ll be happy all day, any day.

Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:

…it was a Sign. I was sure of that. The whole fraught episode must signify something. My automatic response might just have had something to do with the fire that the Factory had predicted, but deep inside I knew that that wasn’t all there was to it, and that there was more to come. The sign was in the whole thing, not just the unexpected ferocity of the buck I’d killed, but also in my furious, almost unthinking response and the fate of the innocent rabbits who took the brunt of my wrath.
It also meant something looking back as well as forward. The first time I murdered it was because of rabbits meeting a fiery death, and meeting that fiery death from the nozzle of a Flame-thrower virtually identical to the one I had used to exact my revenge on the warren. It was all too close and perfect. Events were shaping up faster and worse than I could have expected. I was in danger of losing control of the situation. The Rabbit Grounds – that supposed happy hunting-ground – had shown it could happen.
From the smaller to the greater, the patterns always hold true, and the Factory has taught me to watch out for them and respect them.

Page Number: 37
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 7 Quotes

All our lives are symbols. Everything we do is part of a pattern we have at least some say in. The strong make their own patterns and influence other people’s, the weak have their courses mapped out for them. The weak and the unlucky, and the stupid. The Wasp Factory is part of the pattern because it is a part of life and – even more so – part of death. Like life it is complicated, so all the components are there. The reason it can answer questions is because every question is a start looking for an end, and the Factory is about the End – death, no less. Keep your entrails and sticks and dice and books and birds and voices and pendants and all the rest of that crap; I have the Factory, and it’s about now and the future; not the past.

Page Number: 117
Explanation and Analysis:

… I would try to contact Eric through the skull of Old Saul. We are brothers, after all, even if only half so, and we are both men, even if I am only half so. At some deep level we understand each other, even though he is mad and I am sane. We even had that link I had not thought of until recently, but which might come in useful now: we have both killed, and used our heads to do it.

It occurred to me then, as it has before, that that is what men are really for. Both sexes can do one thing specially well; women can give birth and men can kill. We – I consider myself an honorary man – are the harder sex. We strike out, push through, thrust and take. The fact that it is only an analogue of all this sexual terminology I am capable of does not discourage me. I can feel it in my bones, in my uncastrated genes. Eric must respond to that.

Related Symbols: Old Saul’s Skull
Page Number: 118
Explanation and Analysis:
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Wasp Factory Term Timeline in The Wasp Factory

The timeline below shows where the term Wasp Factory appears in The Wasp Factory. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1: The Sacrifice Poles
Ritual and Superstition  Theme Icon
...mainland. He hits a sign, which he sees as a good omen. He notes that the Wasp Factory had sent him a vague, but likely important warning. Frank decides he will consult the... (full context)
Ritual and Superstition  Theme Icon
Sanity and Insanity  Theme Icon
...sure Eric will make it to the island; he doesn’t even feel compelled to ask the Factory about it. (full context)
Control, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Sexism and Gender Roles Theme Icon
...prevents him from going into the loft above the house where Frank has set up the Wasp Factory . Angus has never told Frank his real age, but Frank guesses he’s around 45. (full context)
Chapter 2: The Snake Park
Ritual and Superstition  Theme Icon
...Poles. Most are in good condition. He plants the burned remains of a wasp from the Factory between two important Poles. Then he climbs a tower on the mainland from which he... (full context)
Ritual and Superstition  Theme Icon
Frank remembers “ the Factory said something about fire.” Although the obvious answer seems to be that Eric will set... (full context)
Ritual and Superstition  Theme Icon
Control, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
...at home in bed that night, Frank wonders what the events of the day meant. The Factory has taught him to observe patterns, “from the smaller to the greater,” and so he... (full context)
Chapter 3: In the Bunker
Ritual and Superstition  Theme Icon
Frank then begins a ritual—taking the cadaver of a wasp which has been through the Factory , and lighting it on a pyre of sugar and weed killer. He inspects the... (full context)
Chapter 7: Space Invaders
Ritual and Superstition  Theme Icon
Control, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Ritual and Superstition  Theme Icon
Control, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Frank catches a wasp to use in the Factory . Then he builds a dam in a nearby river. It is huge and complicated,... (full context)
Ritual and Superstition  Theme Icon
Control, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Sanity and Insanity  Theme Icon
...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.... (full context)
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
Frank is certain the Wasp Factory will give him a sense of the future. Then he will contact Eric using Old... (full context)
Chapter 8: The Wasp Factory
Ritual and Superstition  Theme Icon
Control, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Ritual and Superstition  Theme Icon
Control, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Sanity and Insanity  Theme Icon
Frank describes the Wasp Factory . It is the face of an old enormous public clock, a meter across. In... (full context)
Ritual and Superstition  Theme Icon
Sanity and Insanity  Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Chapter 12: What Happened to Me
Control, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Sexism and Gender Roles Theme Icon
...taking.” Frances believed sex was impossible, and so killed instead, as a kind of “conception.” The Factory , meanwhile, was another attempt to create life. (full context)