In The Wasp Factory, Frank Cauldhame critiques social institutions and the day-to-day lives of most people. He ironically repudiates religious ritual and myth by creating his own absurd rituals and treating them with religious solemnity. For example, he creates a wasp factory in which he kills wasps and and places them in a makeshift clock. Whichever wasp the clock presents to him at any given moment he reads as having almost astrological significance. Frank's life is full of rituals that are dark and macabre. His entire narrative serves to make fun of the rituals most people hold dear.
The social and historical context of The Wasp Factory is the Gothic subculture of the 1970's and '80s, which called attention to the futility and ineffectiveness of mainstream rituals and ideals. Thus, it appealed to many readers on an intellectual level. The story also speaks to the alienation that many teenagers feel when they first enter the adult world. Frank's refusal to accept a proper adult role, and his celebration of extremely self-involved activities, attract young readers who feel similarly alienated and rebellious