It has been previously argued by J. G. Ballard that ‘The Island is a state of mind’, completely separated by society, where anything can happen. It is also true that when defining ‘Islands’ the English dictionary gives the description of ‘a thing regarded as especially isolated, detached, or surrounded in some way’ as well as the standard geographical and physical term. Both The Wasp Factory and The Tempest are stories of the apparent abuse of unrestrained power and dominion where heinous crimes take place, though undoubtedly illegal or utterly impossible in the case of the Tempest and throughout this essay I will be arguing that these islands form the most important structure in the texts and that without them the abuses of tyranny would not be possible.
The Tempest and the wasp factory at first glance are completely different texts, written nearly four hundred years apart it is of course immediately clear that the genres are almost opposite, The Tempest is regarded as one of Shakespeare’s romances with themes of obsession with loss and recovery, long wandering journeys and elements of magic and the fantastic. It is also important to note that it was the last play written before his death and very contextually relevant. In 1909 the ‘Sea Venture’ was believed to be lost at sea and the crew dead, however arrived back in England with an incredible tale of having spent nearly a year on an island of Bermuda. Shakespeare also highlights the issues surrounding imperialism and discovering the ‘new, unmapped world’ with Caliban the ‘native’ being enslaved and forced into servitude by Prospero the magician. The tempest was first performed in the fall of 1611 and again at the marriage ceremony of King James’ daughter, Elizabeth.
The Wasp Factory, written in 1984 is considered a modern gothic novel that was received with a mixture of acclaim and criticism due to the extent of its violence.
The islands play key roles in both texts, the remote unnamed Scottish island has only two regular inhabitants Frank and his Father, it would seem that Frank is very much in control on this island and although he is allowed off it and makes a few journeys to the mainland sharing that he likes to get away from the island now and then, but adds; ‘Not too far’ confessing ‘I restrict my horizons for my own good reasons;’. Nicholas Ruddick, admittedly in a study of science fiction proposed that: "the Island is a metaphor for the (at once) positive separateness and negative alienation of the Self from Other as well as for the predicament of humanity itself on its island world encircled by the indifferent--or hostile--ocean of space". However, this appears somewhat relevant, although in The Wasp Factory the positive separation is a great deal harder to find and arguably not there at all. Miranda’s separation is slightly different, on the island she lives with her Father, Caliban, the subhuman son of the malevolent witch, Sycorax who Prospero forced into servitude and Ariel, a spirit whom Prospero freed from a tree and is therefore bound to the service of the magician.
Unlike Frank, Miranda has never been aware of anything but the island as she was brought to it when only a child. When asked she can only recall vague memories ‘Had I not four or five women once that tended me?’ This isolation is hugely significant as Miranda therefore solely relies on her father’s stories of the world to base her own knowledge on,
It is arguable that without further knowledge of the world and of ‘mankind’ she would have been less susceptible to the work of both Ariel and her father in her falling in love with Ferdinand. It is this service of matchmaking that grants Ariel her freedom but arguably bounds Miranda’s to a role she would have possibly not wanted otherwise (although she seems pretty happy in the text).
Ian Banks writes that Frank…