The Wasp Factory


Iain Banks

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Themes and Colors
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Wasp Factory, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Ritual and Superstition

Rituals help Frank Cauldhame, The Wasp Factory’s protagonist and narrator, navigate the world. Frank believes that he has no birth certificate, and as a result he does not legally exist. Because of this he is unable to go to school or integrate himself into the local community. Additionally, Frank believes he was castrated as a child, and feels himself to be unlike many of the local boys. This sense of distance, in addition…

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Control, Violence, and Power

Throughout The Wasp Factory, members of the central Cauldhame family attempt to exert control over each other and over the wider world. Angus attempts to control his children through the strict rules he imposes on them, and the limitations he places on where they are allowed to go in his household, whereas Eric and Frank both enjoy exerting their power through acts of violence on the landscape, nearby animals, and other children. However, although…

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Family and Friendship

The protagonists of The Wasp Factory, half-siblings Frank and Eric, and their father, Angus, are part of a tight family unit. Although Eric has been locked away in a mental institution for many years, he casts a shadow over Frank and Angus, and much of their lives are centered on memories of him and anxiety around his recent escape. Although Angus and Eric’s internal lives do not receive much space in the…

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Sanity and Insanity

Brothers Frank and Eric Cauldhame both exhibit behaviors far beyond the bounds of acceptable human conduct. Frank has murdered three children, frequently tortures animals, and believes he can tell the future through interactions with wasps, while Eric likes to set dogs on fire, and was once institutionalized for trying to feed maggots to local children. Their behavior is objectively abnormal, when not actively criminal, but Frank’s unreliable though unemotional and rational narration depicts his behavior…

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Sexism and Gender Roles

Francis Leslie Cauldhame, known as Frank to his family and friends, believes himself to be a teenage boy who was accidentally castrated by the family dog, Old Saul, at age three. Frank identifies as male, although his missing male genitalia, and the resultant lack of male sex characteristics (like facial hair or muscle tone), are sources of anxiety and frustration. Because he doesn’t feel himself to be fully masculine, Frank spends much of…

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