December 10, 2007

The Invisible Man

Posted in Classics of World Literature, Science Fiction at 4:34 am by j128

Cover of the Folio Society edition of \

Folio Society edition of The Invisible Man (a link to the Folio Society website can be found in my blogroll, under Reading)

The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells was published in 1897 and while not exactly one of Mr. Wells’ strongest stories (compare The Time Machine, published 1895)due to a slightly meandering plot, it is a marvelous read. It is the story of Griffin, the Invisible Man, who reaches a certain point of frustration, and possibly insanity, due to his state of invisibility and the burden which he carries of not being able to confide in anyone about his predicament.

Summary

Griffin reached his invisible state by several experiments he conveyed secretly and privately alone; for fear of others knowing what he was up to. He discovered his positive invisibility results when he experimented with the formula on a white cat, which turned out to be a neighbour’s, and she (the neighbour) inquires after her cat under suspicion he has it in his possession. The cat does become invisible except for its claws and its eyes’ retinas and those are visible only slightly. Realizing what he could do, Griffin experiments on himself after the landlord comes to check on Griffin’s domain due to the neighbour who owned the white cat (the neighbour was very determined to prove Griffin had been vivisecting her cat).

After burning down the building so that his tracks are covered, Griffin escapes out into the world enjoying his blessing of invisibility. But for what seems to be a blessing it soon transforms into a curse as he discovers the disadvantages as well as the advantages of being invisible. He explains to Dr Kemp later on that there were disadvantages with the weather: if it snowed, it would begin to settle and form a figure, if it rained, pretty much the same thing, and in fog there was the faintest outline of an individual.

Illustration from the Folio Society edition of \

The Invisible Man sets out of London to Iping, somwhere in West Sussex. Iping is a small village and when he comes heavily cloaked and wearing a bandage round his head with a moustache and beard, goggling spectacles, and a pink shiny costume nose he causes a sensation in the village and many come to inquire who he is or what he’s up to with one thousand and one bottles. Griffin is prone to quick temper and prefers to be left in solitude, hardly disturbed, and above all else, complete privacy.

Mr. and Mrs. Hall of the local inn, The Coach and Horses, which is where Griffin is lodging, discover his invisibility along with others in the inn when they question him about his queer behaviour and the violent furniture that attacked them the other night, the same night the vicar and his wife were robbed. When he removes his bandages, costume nose, spectacles, artificial facial hair, he causes ultimate panic and fright. The police are called to capture him but Griffin only escapes by removing all his clothing.

Now having escaped, Griffin convinces a tramp named Mr. Marvel to help him restore his possessions he had had to inevitably leave behind at The Coach and Horses. Mr. Marvel does not know of the incident that happened at the inn but he is scared by the bodiless voice, which could only belong to the Invisible Man, and he does as Griffin wishes; only to flee once the task is accomplished along with Griffin’s notebooks and cheques and attempts to betray Griffin to the police. The Invisible Man threatens to kill Mr. Marvel and is in hot pursuit when a black-bearded American man shoots his gun and Griffin is wounded.

Griffin bandages himself at a house, which is revealed to be the house of Dr. Kemp, whom Griffin was acquainted with during his college days. Griffin explains to Dr Kemp he is invisible until Dr. Kemp comes to believe it and he also begins to believe all those stories in the newspaper. After reading all the news stories he can get his hands on about the Invisible Man Dr. Kemp contacts the police.

Meanwhile Griffin tells Dr. Kemp his life story after college, including that of which is described in the beginning paragraphs above. Some of the occurances not mentinoed in the beginning paragraphs were his first experience of a disadvantage of being invisible when he walked up a stairway after hours of walking barefoot and two men see dirty footprints on the freshly cleaned stairway stop abruptly without a clue, after that he stayed overnight in a seemingly large department store that had everything the Invisible Man needed and he began feeling human again as he wore clothing but he had to throw them off when the staff found him next morning, and before he departed to Iping he went into a man’s house, who owned a costume shop, and after several days of living in the man’s house secretly and setting the man on his nerves due to Griffin’s carelessness the man began carrying a revolver and locking up all the doors. Finally out of desperation Griffin knocks the man over the head and bundles him up in a sack while Griffin took what he needed to disguise himself.

Shortly after that episode Griffin made his way to Iping and that was where all the adventure rolled downhill. He reveals to Dr Kemp that he is to begin a Reign of Terror and anyone who stands in his way he will kill including those who try to defend the victim and Dr Kemp is to be his visible ally.

Griffin was trying to find a way to make himself visible again but all the notes and formulas are in the notebooks Mr Marvel stole.

Dr Kemp is in no way willingly going to help Griffin, not only because he does not wish to associate himself with this Reign of Terror, but also because he sees Griffin as a maniac, and soon the police come. Griffin attacks Dr. Kemp, saying he is a traitor, and also tackles one of the policemen before escaping.

The next day Dr. Kemp receives a note written on greasy paper notifying that he is the first on the list to be killed by the Invisible Man and that it is the first day of the first year of the Epoch of the Invisible Man.

Unfortunately for the protagonist, the Epoch does not go very far. Indeed, the navy kills Griffin on the first day, when Dr. Kemp cries for help as a vacuum of air is attacking him.

Badly wounded and beaten, Griffin dies, and as he does so he becomes visible once more beginning with outlines of albino skin until his entire naked body can be seen with his eyes “like garnets.”

In the epilogue, it is said that to know more about the Invisible Man to ask the landlord. The landlord will refuse to know anything about the notebooks but when all is quiet, in a room, he will take out a box. And in this box are the three notebooks and Mr Marvel, for it is he, will struggle over the equations, getting no further than “Hex, little two up in the air, cross, and a fiddle-de-dee”, which is his struggling attempt to verbalize Griffin’s algebra notation “X2+.”

Links

The Invisible Man on Project Gutenberg

Invisibility Cloak – Article on HowsStuffWorks about the possibility of a cloaking device rendering one invisible.

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