Examine the portrayal of cultural poverty in “Saved” and “The Wasp Factory”

Cultural poverty can be defined as lacking society’s principles in many ways. “The Wasp Factory” and “Saved” deal with dysfunctional families living in a community that is deprived of hope and aspiration. Their way of life is violent and gothic due to the deficiency of society’s ethics and morals. This is reflected in the characters attitudes and minds which to them is all they have ever known. Their isolation from education and society’s support structure limits their knowledge of how to live in a community. Lack of education is probably the most defining factor determining how a society advances and improves.

Frank’s world is completely his creation, with his own morals, principles and rules. He doesn’t know how to socialise as he has never experienced life through the point of view of another human being. His total upbringing by his father was completely orchestrated mentally and physically. Frank epitomises the extremes of society’s norms at the time that “The Wasp Factory” was written when Margaret Thatcher was in power. Thatcher’s belief when she was in power was that it’s “Every man for himself” which created social isolation between different families, as can be seen in the families of both “The Wasp Factory” and “Saved”.

Frank’s family sounds highly dysfunctional when we discover how he talks of how Eric’s mother haemorrhaged and bled to death when Eric was born. His opinion of how Eric was the first murderer of the family is very sinister and thought provoking, “Old Eric beat me to it, killing his mum before he had even drawn breath”. Frank doesn’t even exist in society which is one of the reasons why he has no education because he could never go to school.

The same can be said of the characters in “Saved” who are illiterate and uneducated which can be shown through their vocabulary. No signs of education can be seen in any of the characters due to their personalities and lifestyles. Also the accent that comes through the vocabulary makes the characters seem different, as in our society we are not use to hearing their accents and generally their lifestyles seem isolated from society. We never hear of how they survive, where their income comes from nor even simple daily routines such as house hold duties.

Even though the characters speech in “Saved” is altered, it brings the reader closer to the characters and they seem more human, which is why we understand the characters more personally and understand their different lifestyles. Social isolation is another aspect that affects the characters in “The Wasp Factory” and “Saved”. In “The Wasp Factory”, Frank understands how his island is just a miniscule part of the planet and knows that he limits his own knowledge of first hand experiences of other places, but the reason why his life is surrounded and clouded by the fact that he will never leave the island is deeper.

He believes he has been treated cruelly by society and believes that it is influential and contaminating. This is largely due to the fact that when Eric left the island, he was exposed to the social pressures. He says, “Eric chose a path and followed it – that path led to the destruction of most of what he was”. Frank believes that Eric developing a mental illness as we learn in “What Happened to Eric” and his personality change is a result of his leaving the island and returning with a changed heart, indicating the world is a cruel and life-changing place.

Frank sees his island as a haven, his protection from the cruelty and dangers of the outside world. He even

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says, “I don’t bother people, and they best not bother me”, which shows he created isolation purposely, and that he isn’t a shy or unsociable person. In “Saved” the setting reflects the characters isolation from society. “Saved” is set on a completely bare stage, which helps to create its detachment. At the time that “Saved” was written, the economy in Britain was in decline and unemployment rose, and this is reflected in the play. The society that the play is set was very capitalistic.

Capitalism is a social system based on the principle of individual right, and is reflected in the play as the social class the characters are in is segregated. Bond is also trying to address a political issue with this play, Violence will only stop when we live in a just society in which all people are equal in all significant respects. Capitalism can’t do this because its political ethos is competitiveness. The stoning of the baby is a consequence of this, but the eruption of violence has nothing to do with the preceding action or with the object of violence, the baby.

It’s just the result of the general situation (being bored, having no aims in life) and some of their cries while they murder the baby are ruling-class slogans. Aggression is not directed against the source of alienation, but against human nature, in this case the baby as the epitome of neediness and hope for the future. The young people express that they are not interested in children. Both books have similarities and differences in the way women are portrayed.

The Wasp Factory”, Frank is brought up entirely by his father, and the effect this has on Franks view of women is very negative – he says, “My greatest enemies are women and the sea – women because they are weak and live in the shadow of men” (Pg 43). Frank also has a view that women like to see men helpless as he says “I expected she would just let me crack my skull on the pavement because women like to see men helpless” (Pg 79). Frank’s mother also left the family when he was very young, which may be another reason why he resents the existence of women. In “Saved” the women are portrayed as weak and insecure.

Pam is a very fragile character, and is easily hurt or made happy. Her emotions swing from one extreme to the other, in scene ten, she talks to Len about him seeing other women, “Yer ain’ a bad sort”, and the next minute she is screaming at him, “Yer’re a stubborn sod! ” (Pg 95). Pam’s relationship with Fred is definitely one way, at the beginning of scene 6 we see Pam practically begging Fred to come home that night, “I don’t care if yer bin with yer girls, come ‘ome after” (Pg 59), and Fred basically doesn’t really care and just says, “There’s plenty a blokes knockin’ about, why don’t yer pick on someone else? (Pg 58).

Even after the murder of her baby, Pam puts her relationship with Fred above the fact that he contributed towards the baby’s murder, which is a reflection on how much she really cared for her child. Relationships are important in society as they help build foundations on how to communicate and acknowledge the fact that everyone is different. In “Saved” there is not one strong relationship based on trust. The only relationship which can be examined is between Harry and Mary, but even this has its flaws.

Harry says that he only lives with Mary as she does the “washin’ an cookin” (Pg 116), and he has no trust towards her as he thinks that if he left, Mary would easily find a replacement, “she would soon ‘ave someone in my bed” (Pg 119) One thing that is common in the main characters of both books is the lack of hope and aspiration. It is hard to visualise how the characters would develop as time goes by as they all seem to be in a daily routine which limits their awareness beyond their own surroundings and excludes them from their community.

In “Saved” the only character who is idealistic and positive is Len. The author writes, “Len does not know what he will do next, but then he has never done”. Len’s optimism is apparent because he has seen people at their very worst and most hopeless, yet he chooses to remain and not leave. We might believe that for Len to go further in life and to make something of himself he would have to break free of his current situation but he continues to believe that things will eventually work out for himself and for Pam.

Bond says that the play is “irresponsibly optimistic”. This is true as the ending might be a new beginning for both Len and Pam (Possibly because Pam now has her Radio Times back). In “The Wasp Factory” Frank is optimistic about many things. Firstly he has a sense of optimism that has been enforced by his father. Frank understands that he was never going to be educated in public schools, but he believes that he is just as well educated as others, “I probably know more about the conventional school subjects than most people of my age”.

Frank is also optimistic about Eric coming home as he has a very strong link with him, even though he is certified insane. The ending of the book is also positive; Frank says “I thought one door had shut behind me years ago, now the door closes, and my journey begins” (Pg 184). Even with the discovery of his new identity, Frank is confident that his “Journey” will still continue, and that although he realises he is a girl, he is still the same person, “But I am still me, I am the same person” (Pg 182).

It could be said that human beings adapt to their surroundings, which is scientifically true in the case of animals such as rabbits where their fur turns white in winter. Humans are all born into society, and it is true that your surroundings can have an effect on a persons mind and personality. In “The Wasp Factory” and “Saved”, the characters are limited in their awareness and they have no perspective in life. They are living in their own isolated areas with no interaction with other people in their community and this limits their knowledge.

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