Saved and The Wasp Factory

In ‘The Wasp Factory’ and ‘Saved’ one obviously apparent theme is the lack of community spirit in the societies. In ‘The Wasp Factory’ there is no mention of a character who wonders why Frank isn’t in school or doing things that other young men do. In ‘Saved’ there is no mention of anybody making any sort of judgement when Pam goes to meet Fred, somebody who has been jailed for the murder of her baby. Therefore it is important to look into the issue of cultural poverty, as it will make clearer why the characters are who they are and behave as they do.

Obviously, ‘Saved’ is a play and ‘The Wasp Factory’ is a novel.

As ‘Saved’ is a play the audience physically see characters’ actions and emotions whereas Iain Banks has to use imagery. The effect of this is that the disturbing images in ‘Saved’ are there for the audience to see, initially making ‘Saved’ even more sickening.

The setting for ‘Saved’ is on a bare stage so the plot seems extreme as the setting doesn’t dilute the harsh actions and language used in the play but reinforces them. Although harsh actions and emotions are in ‘The Wasp Factory’ the setting of “empty beaches” softens these actions, contrasting them with the natural splendour in which they take place.

Perhaps Bond is suggesting that his characters have been formed by the environment and uses the setting to illustrate this whereas Banks makes it clear that ugly actions are not dependant on ugly surroundings.

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‘The Wasp Factory’ is written in the first person narrative therefore the reader sees things from Frank’s viewpoint. The whole book is based on Frank’s thoughts and actions so the reader’s perceptions are based on those of Frank. When Frank says that he has killed people he says it casually; the reader isn’t as shocked as they should be.

Frank says on page 42, “That’s my score to date” and “It was just a stage I was going through” when talking about his murders which gives the impression he has no remorse. ‘Saved’, as a play on the other hand, actually shows the audience the murder of the baby. Stage directions such as “He starts to throw burning matches in the pram” and “He takes a stone from the pram and throws it at point blank range” are actually shown to the audience. Unlike ‘The Wasp Factory’ there is no escape from, nor sympathy with, the murder of the baby.

In both texts the reader feels very close to the main characters and this is due to the language. ‘The Wasp Factory’ is written in a Scottish dialect e. g. the girl who Jamie meets in the pub says to Jamie “Dud he say sumhin er? ” referring to Frank who is drunk at the time, which makes the novel seem more realistic. This language seems strange to the reader but by using this dialect the language links the book with the time and the setting and this realism involves the reader in the book. In ‘Saved’ the cockney accent makes the reader feel more involved in the story.

In a conversation between Len and Pam on page 82 Pam says “None a that ‘ld a ‘appened if yer ain’ bin ‘ere. ” Without this accent it would be harder to picture the London setting and characters. Violence pervades in both texts. The extreme details of violence in the texts are sickening to any audience. Even the description of the battle between Frank and a rabbit contains violent images as Frank says how he feared the rabbit “tearing the flesh” off his finger and how he feared the rabbit “biting” his nose off.

The instances of violence on living things are quite sickening but they pale in comparison to the murder of the baby in ‘Saved’ and the murders in ‘The Wasp Factory’. In ‘Saved’ when the men are trying to get the baby to sleep Pete says, “give it a punch” and also that “cloutin’s good for ’em. ” These images alone show signs of abnormal behaviour and attitudes. The men then begin “throwing stones” at the baby with Mike asking ” ‘Oo’s got the matches? ” showing that the characters intend burning the baby, another sickening thought. These disturbing images can also be linked to ‘The Wasp Factory’ where Frank kills three children.

Frank’s explanation for killing his young brother Paul is on page 67 where he says that Paul “was not long for this world”. Frank made Paul blow himself up by hitting a bomb with a stick at the age of five. When Frank’s father asks him about killing living things Frank tells the reader how “of course I was out killing things” and “there just aren’t enough natural deaths”. The innocence of the victims in the texts increases the horror of the audience. The use of innocent victims in ‘The Wasp Factory’ again highlights Frank’s mental instability as he almost sees himself as a God like figure.

Characters from ‘Saved’ thought that it was “a giggle” to hurt the baby and Frank thought that it was his duty to kill the characters in ‘The Wasp Factory’ for no real reason, all protagonists are seemingly amoral which poses the question whether society is actually amoral. Another point to consider is the portrayal of women in both texts. Frank sees women as “weak” and “stupid” in ‘The Wasp Factory’ and feels that they “live in the shadows of men” perhaps because Frank’s mother left at a very early age giving him no real female guidance.

Iain Banks wrote ‘The Wasp Factory’ at the time Thatcher was Prime Minister. Thatcher wasn’t a popular figure in Scotland; they saw her as more of a dictator than somebody who was willing to help them. Thatcher had set ideas and didn’t really adapt to certain situations. This could be why Banks’ has chosen to hardly include women in the book at all as he saw Thatcher as somebody who ignored women in his perception. Therefore because of Thatcher’s influence on Banks’ life he chose to represent women as a non-existent gender whose only role in the book was to leave their child to live in a one-parent family.

However this is ironic as the audience learns at the end of the book that Frank is female, so the destructive character who was anti-female and violent is really a female. When Frank finds this out he says he “shivers at the thought” of the idea of “intercourse and giving birth” on page 82; the main female character in ‘The Wasp Factory’ behaves and thinks as a male. ‘Saved’ also has a negative image of women. Pam is portrayed as an easygoing woman who would go to bed with anyone. Pam takes Len home without even finding out his name so therefore from the start of the play Pam is portrayed as ‘easy’.

Pam is reflected negatively, as the audience doesn’t have much sympathy for her when her baby dies especially as Pam goes to meet Fred. Fred helped to torture the baby yet Pam still insists he moves in with her, goes to meet him from prison and hopes that they will have a relationship. Pam puts her feelings for Fred above the fact that he helped to kill her baby, which therefore shows how motherhood is represented in ‘Saved’. As in ‘The Wasp Factory’ the representation of motherhood is negative.

Similarly Mary is also portrayed negatively by her husband Harry. Harry says to Len that the reason he came back was so Mary could do his “washin’ an’ cookin'”, he says that if he left Mary would “soon ‘ave someone in my bed” so the man to whom she is married dislikes her. It is fair to say that neither Iain Banks nor Edward Bond have any positive images of women in their texts; as they don’t include women in any real positive role in their texts as their writing excludes the caring half of society. The majority of the characters in ‘Saved’ seem unpleasant.

Len however contrasts with these characters as he is portrayed as respectable; this highlights the behaviour of the other characters. Len seems a flawless character who acts in the best interest of others. Len explains in scene eight how “I lost me job stayin’ out a ‘elp you when yer was sick! ” The audience feels sympathetic towards Len, as Pam acts terribly towards him throughout the play. Pam says in scene eleven “E’s pullin’ me t’ pieces. Nothin’ but trouble” referring to Len who was somebody who supported Pam throughout.

Therefore in ‘Saved’ Len is the only real good character, which emphasises the faults in the other characters. There are some very strange relationships in the two texts and it is important to look at these relationships in order to find out why certain characters are shaped as they are. The person who Frank has most contact with in ‘The Wasp Factory’ is his father, his closest relation. Yet his father tells Frank that he is a man and feeds him male hormones. When Frank does finally find out, through forcing the truth out of his father, he says that his “father’s truth had murdered” what he was.

The man on whom Frank relies is responsible for ruining his life. Therefore it could be said that there are no real relationships in ‘The Wasp Factory’ and that it is a book made up of individuals. Most characters have their own secrets e. g. Frank’s the only one who knows about his murders, Eric doesn’t tell anybody where he is and Frank’s father is the only one who knows the real truth about Frank. Frank doesn’t really have anybody to talk to apart from Jamie so therefore he spends a lot of time on his own, contributing to his psychopathy. The relationships in ‘Saved’ are also quite strange.

Len moves in with Pam after they had only met once. Pam makes it obvious that she wants Len to leave as she says “Why don’t ‘e go? ” and that Len’s “pullin’ me t’ pieces” in one of the final scenes in the play. It is Len who stands by Pam throughout the play and looks out for her yet, she would rather have Fred back, somebody who helped to kill her baby. The longest standing relationship in ‘Saved’ is between Mary and Harry yet Harry says that if he was to leave Mary “she’d soon ‘ave someone in my bed” which shows the lack of faith he has in his wife.

Although the characters talk more in ‘Saved’ than in ‘The Wasp Factory’ the relationships are still dysfunctional. It could be fair to say that there are more normal characters in ‘Saved’ (Len, Harry and Mary) than in ‘The Wasp Factory’ where one of the only normal characters is a dwarf. However for all the talking that is done little of value is exchanged which again highlights the ‘cultural poverty’ in the text. Linking with relationships is isolation, which is very apparent in both of these texts. Frank is isolated from society as he “was never registered” as he tells on page 13.

This would make him isolated; as he was unable to attend school for example, as officially he didn’t exist. However Frank doesn’t even want to bother trying to get to know other people, he says in chapter 1 that “I don’t bother people and they best not bother me” and that he’s “learned to live without people”. This could be the reason Frank kills living things. It could be argued to explain his murders, as he was unable to learn society’s norms and therefore set his own boundaries. Frank’s life is based on what Frank experienced.

When Blyth killed Frank and Eric’s rabbits Frank felt the hiding he got from his father “was not enough” and that Frank wanted to “kill Blyth there and then”. It is fair to say that as Frank was so isolated he was shaped differently to other people in society. There is a different type of isolation in ‘Saved’ as the family seem isolated as a group rather than as individuals. The baby is isolated as, apart from Len everybody neglects it. Len says in scene four that he wishes to god that he “could take that kid out a this” and he “listen out for the kid. They ain’ bothered”. The family seem isolated because of the strange events that occur.

Stoning to death of a baby and the mother wanting to get back in a relationship with one of the perpetrators seems to go unremarked. As in “The Wasp Factory’ the lack of friendship and communication with other characters from society could have shaped Pam. The only real people she did communicate with that weren’t family were the people who stoned her baby to death. In both texts the only person to be diagnosed with a mental illness was Eric who was “certified insane”. Although Frank’s father says to Frank “sometimes I think you’re the one who should be in hospital” it’s only Eric who is contained.

However Frank obviously has mental problems and perhaps the only reason he hasn’t been assessed is down to the fact that he hasn’t been registered and therefore he can’t see a doctor. Pam suffers from depression in ‘Saved’ but this is more down to Fred going to jail rather than the murder of her baby. Pam does suffer postnatal depression but this seems to be completely ignored because it poses no threat to anybody but herself. It could be said that based on these texts society only reacts to what threatens society. There is optimism in the two texts, showing perhaps the only way out of the effects of cultural poverty.

There are brief scenes of optimism; Frank finding the study door open results in his true identity and Len is optimistic in ‘Saved’. He stays with Pam even though she treats him badly. The real optimism however is found right at the end of both books where Frank says, “Now the door closes and my journey begins” and there are no arguments at the end of ‘Saved’, which represents a new peaceful beginning. Lack of education, lack of hope and lack of access to society’s norms are all parts of both texts so therefore it is true that cultural poverty is a major theme.

Even though shocking images have been discussed I think the ending shows the characters can escape. Frank can start his “new journey” and the final scene of ‘Saved’ shows that Pam and Len can “fold the radio times” without arguing. These two texts are initially very depressing yet we do end in hope. Therefore it could be argued that by the end of both texts the writer’s offer hope for society and a way forward. They show us that society is our safety net as humanity; if we can be shocked by the murder of a few how can we ignore the needs of many?

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Saved and The Wasp Factory. (2017, Sep 22). Retrieved from

Saved and The Wasp Factory
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