This sample essay on The Wasp Factory Themes reveals arguments and important aspects of this topic. Read this essay’s introduction, body paragraphs and the conclusion below.
‘Saved’ was written by Edward Bond in the late 1960’s. ‘The Wasp Factory’ was written by Iain Banks in 1984. Although the two texts were written over twenty years apart, isolation is still an integral part of both texts. Through phonetic representation we can see that ‘Saved’ is set in South London, and ‘The Wasp Factory’ is set in a remote part of Scotland; the two are culturally polar through location.
Although the two texts have their differences, all of the main characters are isolated from society and its normalities. This isolation has a profound effect on the characters.
It can be seen that in both ‘Saved’ and ‘The Wasp Factory’ that the protagonists do not exist in society’s eyes. In ‘The Wasp Factory’ Frank, the main character, hides from Diggs, who is the representation of society in the book,
“… in case of Diggs did any asking around and discovered I didn’t exist officially.
” (page 72)
Frank’s non-existance makes his life hopeless, because he can never have aspirations outside of the island.
In ‘Saved’, all of the characters are non-existant in society’s eyes; they are isolated by society. Society only associates with the characters when crimes are committed, as seen in both texts, and then we see societal punishment.
“That inspector wants you.” (page 75)
In both ‘Saved’ and ‘The Wasp Factory’ it can be seen that even though the protagonists are isolated from society, friendships are still formed between characters.
In ‘The Wasp Factory’ Frank, even though isolated through to his disability, still forges a friendship with Jamie, a dwarf. Frank is unable to form relationships with people who are seen as normal, be that able bodied, or mentally sound; so perhaps the only reason Frank is friends with Jamie is because he is disabled, just like Frank.
“Jamie is my only real friend” (page 51)
In ‘Saved’, even though Len and Fred have a group of friends, they are isolated because they cannot rely on their friends when things go wrong. We see this before Fred goes to prison, when he asks Pam to write to him whilst he is imprisoned, as he cannot rely on his ‘friends’.
“Yer’ll ‘ave to send us letters.” (page 74)
In both texts the characters are isolated through lack of hope. In ‘The Wasp Factory’, Frank is afraid to leave the island because when Eric, his brother did, he went insane.
“…the destruction of most of who he was.” (page 136)
In ‘Saved’, the characters are isolated because of their lack of hope to become something, they have no aspirations.
Len “…we’ll start lookin’ for a place t’morra.”
Pam “No places round ‘ere.” (page 23)
In both texts isolation and hopelessness are shown through family members, and their lack of interaction. In ‘The Wasp Factory’ Frank’s father, Angus, hardly ever interacts with Frank.
“My father grew as uncommunicative as Eric” (page 143)
Therefore, Frank is isolated because he cannot talk to his father, he is forced to be independent and solve his own problems.
In ‘Saved’, Harry does not interact with his wife, nor daughter. He isolates himself from his family. As Pam has been brought up with this, she believes this to be normal. If she sees these marital interactions to be normal, then she has no hope of forming normal sexual relationships.
“Supposed you turned out like that?” (page 24)
In ‘The Wasp Factory’ Frank thinks that he is protected by the island on which he lives. On the island he can do as he pleases, as there is no-one responsible to stop him, as nobody knows he exists. This is the opposite of ‘Saved’, because when the group of men kill the baby, Fred gets caught. He does not take responsibility for the murder though,
“Why couldn’t I bin tryin’ a ‘elp the kid? I got no cause t’ ‘arm it.” (page 74)
This statement from Fred is true, the baby hadn’t harmed the group, but they killed it nonetheless. This epitomises the mentality of the characters in Saved; killing a totally innocent child, simply because the child was vulnerable.
In ‘Saved’ the lack of education is the predominant cause of isolation. All of the characters are poorly educated, and as a result have poorly paid jobs, few ambitions and no hope.
However, in ‘The Wasp factory’ Frank is relatively well educated, thanks to his fathers teaching. Even though Frank has an education, he has no hope, because of other limitations in his life that keep him isolated.
“My father is an educated man, and he passed a lot of what he knew on to me.” (page 14)
In ‘Saved’, Bond enforces isolation by not giving the baby an identity; throughout the play the audience never sees the baby, merely hears its cries.
“Why don’t yer shut that kid up.” (page 37)
The characters in the play ignore the baby too, they do not name it, and do not respond to its cries. This technique from the author has two profound effects on the audience; if the baby has no identity, then the audience cannot relate to it. Secondly, the lack of response to a crying child makes a deeper impact on the audience, it is more shocking; this is because our societal normalities make us want to try and protect the crying baby, and the characters in the play are doing the complete opposite.
Len “I listen out for the kid. They ain’ bothered” (page 42)
In “The Wasp Factory”, Banks enforces isolation through the fact that Frank, the protagonist, has no identity. He is known to a few people; these few people that are aware he exists, he is either related to, or are disabled, or they are people that have been lied to, and believe Frank’s cover story.
In both texts, the victims are utterly innocent. We can interpret this as the authors using the victims to represent hope in the texts. Therefore, when the protagonists kill the children, they are killing symbols of hope; this shows how hopeless their situations are. When Frank kills his little brother, Paul, we see Frank killing a symbol of innocence. Banks has described Paul so he is the epitome of innocence. Banks describes Paul as having, “… a podgy hand.” This physical description shows how young, and undefined, the child is. When Paul says, “B is for bell,” we see a total emphasis on Paul’s innocence. The way Banks builds up an image of innocence, and pity, for Paul, makes the murder that Frank commits all the more tragic.
“…I found an opportunity to get rid of Paul.” (page 67)
Arguably, both texts have a deeper, political, meaning. In ‘Saved’ we can argue that Bond is writing to protests against the Vietnam conflict, and the injustices that were taking place. We see this as the baby representing the innocent victims; no one cares for the baby, as no one cares for the victims of the conflict. Len witnesses the brutal murder of the baby, but doesn’t intervene; as the audience would’ve seen the Vietnam War taking place, and didn’t intervene.
Arguably it can be seen that in ‘The Wasp Factory’ Banks is making a political statement. Margaret Thatcher was in power when Banks wrote ‘The Wasp Factory’ Thatcher famously said, “…that there is no such thing as society.” Frank is the epitome of how people could turn out without society’s presence; if someone is isolated from society as Frank was then it can be seen that in both texts, the writers have portrayed society to be an inactive institution. Society is shown as not interacting with the protagonist, unless it is forced to because society is endangered by the characters; this is society ignoring a responsibility it should have.
In ‘Saved’, society only interacts with the characters when they kill an innocent baby, we then see society’s wrath. Though the protagonists do not see society as a threat, Pam remarks that Fred has only been in trouble once or twice before.
“Yer never bin in trouble before. Juss one or two woundin’s” (page 74)
This comment shows that the characters in ‘Saved’ live in a society that doesn’t see the law, a symbol of societal punishment, as something to be concerned with. This is because the characters are outside of society, and they know it.
This comment, made by Pam, reflects the type of environment in which she lives; one that doesn’t see criminal convictions, nor violence, as a major incident, the totally opposite view that is taken in society.
In ‘The Wasp Factory society only interacts with Eric because Eric poses a threat. If Eric was like Frank, and did not pose a known danger to society, then society wouldn’t react to his mental distress. This contrasts with ‘Saved’. In ‘Saved’ Pam suffers severe post natal depression after the birth of the baby. Pam’s depression does not threaten society, so she is not helped. She also receives no support from her mother. Her situation is hopeless.
“This dump gives me the ‘ump…” (page 45)
In ‘The Wasp Factory’ Frank narrates to the audience, it makes what we read unreliable, but we do see how Frank interprets things. Frank uses humour when talking of death.
“…..he drowned, his little legs waggling pathetically as he gulped and squirmed…” (page 29)
This use of humour enforces Frank’s isolation, because we can see that he has never been in a society that treats death with seriousness. This first person perspective of the deaths has an affect on the audience, because it essentially filters all of the morbidity from the deaths, and leaves Frank’s humorous view.
Whereas in ‘Saved’, when the characters talk jokingly of death, the audience simply sees this as wrong, because it emphasises the lack of feeling and emotion of the characters.
Colin “What a giggle, though”
Mike “Accidents is legal”. (page 28)
In both texts the wife injures her husband in some way. The fighting, and subsequent injury, can be said to be due to the fact that the couple do not communicate with each other; possibly because they are isolated within their marriage. In ‘Saved’, Harry is injured by Mary when the two fight. In ‘The Wasp Factory’, Angus is injured by his wife, when she runs him over and breaks his leg.
“…she ran him over and broke his leg quite badly” (page 107)
This lack of a strong female figure whilst growing up affects the protagonists quite profoundly. In ‘The Wasp Factory’, it leaves Frank with a deeply misogynistic view on all women, and in ‘Saved’, it leaves Pam with an abnormal view of how a normal family should interact with each other.
In both texts the authors have written characters that can be seen to symbolise hope in their respective texts.
In ‘The Wasp Factory’ it can be argued that Frank actually metamorphasises into a symbol of hope. This is towards the end of the text, when Frank has a revelation, and discovers he is actually a woman, and that predestination, a part of his male life, is actually false.
“Now the door closes, and my journey begins.” (page 184)
This poignant quote from Frank relates to his past belief in predestination, when he believed that his Wasp Factory showed him things that would happen. The quote shows that Frank now knows that his journey in life is about to begin.
It can be also be argued, that Len is the symbol of hope in ‘Saved’. Towards the end of the play, Len has integrated with the rest of the family, and is living with them. The coexistence is not one that is filled with happiness, but this is a major step for Len’s character, as he has found acceptance.
The themes of isolation and hopelessness have been highlighted in this essay, and the link between isolation as a cause of hopelessness has been developed. There is so much hopelessness amongst the characters in both of the texts, but, hope can be seen symbolically in both of the texts, in the form of Len and Frank. We can interpret these symbols of hope in a book teeming with hopelessness, as the authors trying to convey a message to the audience. Arguably, this message from the authors could be the fact that they are trying to say that things are changeable; as long as people try to change their situation and as long as society takes responsibility for the vulnerable.