The Wasp Factory
After the bleakly comical last line of the first chapter, we are introduced to the routines of Frank, and the meticulous detail that he attaches to them. In the opening passage, we are reminded of the fact that he lives on an isolated island, which can be considered as a key gothic theme, that of a removed or mysterious setting for the plot to unravel. A gothic story always seems to employ a setting that has particular obscurity or mystery, one that is removed from society.
The ruins of gothic buildings gave rise to multiple linked emotions by representing the inevitable decay and collapse of human creations. Protestants often associated medieval buildings with what they saw as a dark and terrifying period, characterised by harsh laws enforced by torture, and with mysterious, fantastic and superstitious rituals. On page 22, Frank describes his actions of killing a jellyfish while running along the beach. His actions are described in painstaking detail, to the extent that the entire passage could probably be shortened down to a few sentences.
This helps to reinforce the impression that Frank is fundamentally an unhinged persona, describing his actions in an almost autistic manner.
Secondly in this instance, we are presented with the uncanny, a term coined by Freud as “the class of frightening things that leads us back to what is known and familiar”. We recognise the features of Frank’s life which are in accordance with that of a modern society. The quotidian things that he talks about we can (generally) relate to. However it is the contrast between these everyday terms and things like the “sacrifice poles” that creates the typical gothic tool of the uncanny. On the one hand we can relate to some of Frank’s views, but on the other we are shocked by the gruesome and graphic nature of his actions. On pages 23-24, Frank describes the “wars” that he enjoying carrying out. Ostensibly, these are simple childlike war games, something we are all familiar with, but Frank takes it a step further, employing real explosives, something that is not so normal.
His obsession with his routine which must be carried out exactly the same every time also makes use of another gothic feature, that of a ritualistic aspect. This coincides particularly with the mood and themes of the Victorian gothic novel, with their morbid obsession with mourning rituals, mementos, and mortality in general.There is something sinister about the fact that Frank feels the need to return to the sacrifice poles in order to smear blood on them and consequently mark his territory. By doing so, he is further cutting himself off from the rest of the world by stating that they are not allowed onto his land, and what will happen if they do.
Another typical feature of Gothic Fiction that of graphic violence or suffering. The description of the violence coincides with Frank’s detailed approach to life in general. Acts of violence are described in a clinical manner. It is from this that the true horror emerges. Violence is portrayed as cold and menacing, so that the killer is very methodical in his or her ways. Certainly Frank embraces the need to document his every move when he kills a large rabbit, even going as far as to say that he “slit the buck in the anus”.
The Wasp Factory is very much a Gothic novel. Apart from all the elements included above, it also hold true to that other staple of Gothic Fiction, the idea that the Gothic Novel transcends time. Whether set in the Victorian Era, the 18th Century or the modern day, the themes stay the same. The idea is that while times may change, the fundamental elements of the Gothic are eternal and universal.
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After the bleakly comical last line of the first chapter, we are introduced to the routines of Frank, and the meticulous detail that he attaches to them. In the opening passage, […]