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The Wasp Factory as a political allegory(?)

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Chris Shipman This might be of interest - a look at the Wasp Factory as a political allegory (as a post-Orwellian critique of Margaret Thatcher:

Article here

What do you think?


Kenneth I suppose the parallels are there. The wasp factory shows the possible repercussions of a total lack of regulation. Frank is left completely to his own devices and like the boys in Lord of the flies he becomes sadistic and is really a sociopath. I think people see what they want to see in this book. Complicity was more a comment on the effects of Thatcherism.


message 3: by Mike (last edited Oct 02, 2013 10:49AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mike Franklin Yes and no! :)

Yes I thought it was political but no I don't agree with that article.

My take was that Frank was us Brits ineffectually trying to protect our little island and prepared to do what was necessary to do so. Remember Frank never took pleasure in the cruelty he practised and the one time he did (with the rabbit) he was horrified by the carnage he wreaked.

Contrast this with his brother who I saw as the Americans. Frank feels obliged to support his brother but is also horrified by his actions; stronger, crueler, more unpredictable and erratic, and much less restrained than his own.

It's a while since I read it now but something made me feel it was possibly about the relationship between the UK and America. Something Banks was deeply unhappy about as I recall.

Apologies if I upset any Americans with that, but that was my (possible) take.

I'm no expert at this kind of interpretation so maybe I'm way out with this! :)


Roland Howard The Wasp Factory is NOT a political allegory. There are no political themes in the book; gender, death, ritual, mental illness are all dealt with in personal contexts. It can't be seen as a critique of individualism even though the isolation (this man is "an island")and the survival of the fittest theme are quite strong. Frank may embody these values but he also shows kindness to Jamie the dwarf. Also his monologue include political asides (eg. The pro-apartheid uncle) and ethical comment: "It took years to realise that sheep don't represent stupidity but our own power, egotism and avarice." Banks' socialism seeps through the book and infuses the insane but "likable" Frank. This book is best understood as comedy. I think Banks had a hoot writing it; being as offensive as he could. I'm not sure how serious it is. Complicity examines Thatcher's monetarism more fully.


Travis Clemens This book is so insane, I think it has to be an allegory. People read 1984 in different ways, whether as a warning about the dangers of British socialism, or the dangers of communism, so why not this book?

Wasp Factory doesn't resonate as much as 1984. Winston in 1984 is an everyman, but Frank in Wasp Factory is a freak, in every way. I'm not even sure I understand why Frank's father wanted to change Frank's gender. All he said was that it was "an experiment."

I think that makes it mostly useful as an allegory.


MythicalMagpie I'm not convinced it was intended to be a political novel. I thought it perhaps had more to do with a budding writer exploring and understanding psychology and character interaction on the route to gaining this essential knowledge for a successful career in fiction writing.


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