The Invisible Man is a novel that has made the genre of science fiction what it is today. Wells’ writing as been known as scientific romance as well as science fiction. H.G. Wells’ writing career covered a span of fifty years. Wells has a specific writing style that includes writing things how they are and not using an array of literary devices. He has been remembered as an author and political activist. Audiences are still enjoying his work, as many of his novels have come to the big screen years after his death.
The era The Invisible Man was written was a time of rapid technological advancements. Inventions such as telephones, electricity, cars, and airplanes were being brought to the market. H.G. Wells was born in Bromley, England on September 21, 1866. He came from a poor family, and to help his family he became an apprentice for a draper and chemist. Later, he got a scholarship to attend the Normal School of Science in London.
Here he studied many subjects such as physics, biology, zoology, and geology. His expertise in these subjects and niche for writing led him to write his first book, Textbook of Biology in 1893. Two years later, his first novel, The Time Machine was published. The setting of The Invisible Man takes place in Iping which is a real village in West Sussex, England. Here is where Griffin, the main character, hopes to focus on his work. Wells has a number of other novels including The Time Machine (1895) and The Island of Dr.
Moreau (1896). Wells has easily become one of the most important figures for science fiction. He died in 1946 of unknown causes at his home in London (“H.G. Wells”).
The Invisible Man is a science fiction novel. The novel is about a conspicuous man, named Griffin that came to Iping village, in the middle of a snow storm. He found an inn to check into that is owned by Mr. and Mrs. Hall, asked not to be bothered and took his luggage to his room. Griffin is a scientist with notebooks full of his theories and experiments. Griffin does not typically go outside, but when he does it is usually at night, wearing bandages and a fake nose. The people in the village find him quite odd, especially since there have been break-ins and robberies throughout town all of a sudden. He became exposed when Mrs. Hall asked him to pay his overdue rent, and takes off his bandages and disappeared. Griffin found a man named Marvel, who is a migrant worker, and made him his assistant. He trusted Marvel until he ratted Griffin out to the police and he disappeared once more. While on the run, Griffin ran into Dr. Kemp, a colleague from medical school. Griffin made the mistake of telling Dr. Kemp about his experiments, invisibility, and plans to terrorize England. Dr. Kemp too, ratted Griffin out to the police. Griffin broke through the police line and chased Kemp in town, where the locals captured and killed him. At the end of the novel, Marvel has saved Griffin’s notebooks, but they are incomprehensible to him.
“A symbol is a person, place, or object that has a concrete meaning in itself and also stands for something beyond itself, such as an idea or feeling” (“Symbol”). There are three important symbols in The Invisible Man – Dogs, Griffin’s Notebooks, and the Mariner. In chapter three, Griffin finally got his luggage brought to him by Fearenside and his dog. “No sooner had Fearenside’s dog caught sight of him, however, than it began to bristle and growl savagely, and when he rushed down the steps it gave an undecided hop, and then sprang straight at his hand” (Wells 14). Dogs are able to sense the supernatural and things humans can not see. Even though Fearenside could not tell that there was something suspicious about Griffin, his dog was able to. Though, this is not Griffin’s first encounter with a dog. In chapter twenty-one, Griffin got into a cab and saw a little white dog run out of the Pharmaceutical Society, and said, “I had never realized it before, but the nose is to the mind of a dog what the eye is to the mind of a seeing man.
Dogs perceive the scent of a man moving as men perceive his vision” (Wells 118). This is Griffin’s scientific explanation for why Fearenside’s dog was able to detect Griffin even though he is invisible. Dogs are more keen than humans. Dog’s eyes can detect delicate movements, their sense of smell is one thousand to ten thousand times more sensitive than humans, and can hear at higher frequencies than humans. So it only makes sense that dogs can sense Griffin before humans can. After all, the eyes are the windows to the soul. Another symbol would be Griffin’s Notebooks. In chapter three, Griffin’s luggage arrived “and very remarkable luggage it was. There was a couple of trunks indeed, such as a rational man might need, but in addition there were a box of books, – big, fat books, of which some were just in an incomprehensible handwriting…” (Wells 14).
Griffin’s notebooks were the only record of his theories and experiments. He also wrote them in cypher so no one else except for him could understand what was written. Griffin values the information inside his notebooks and think if someone found them, they would take credit for his work. At the same time, he would not publish his work himself. When his notebooks fell into the hands of Marvel, he knew he had to do anything he could to get them back. Unfortunately, Griffin was killed before he could obtain his notebooks once more. Though, since the notebooks are written in cypher, Marvel could not understand what they meant and could not have used that information for his own personal gain.
The notebooks symbolize the advancement of scientific knowledge and how normal people are kept from obtaining this knowledge. Lastly, the Mariner. In chapter fourteen, Marvel is talking to the Mariner and the mariner tells him about a story he read in the newspaper about the invisible man. He says, “And just think of the things he might do! Where’d you be, if he took a drop over and above, and had a fancy to go for you? Suppose he wants to rob – who can prevent him? He can trespass, he can burgle, he could walk through a cordon of policemen as easy as me or you could thr slip to a blind man” (Wells 73)! The mariner uses what he reads in the newspaper, what he hears around the village, and his observation to understand what is going on around him. He uses this to determine that the Invisible Man is stealing. Unlike others who have encountered the Invisible Man, he is in the mood to believe everything. He did not question himself and what he thought to be true.
“A theme is an underlying message that a writer wants the reader to understand” (“Theme”). A major theme in The Invisible Man is Greed and Self-Interest. These qualities are mostly an embodiment of the villian, Griffin, but are also shown in Mrs. Hall and Marvel who will do anything if they think they will profit from it. Greed and self-interest are troublesome because it conflicts with logic and morality. Greed and self-interest are often traits that humans fall victim to and must be watchful of. Griffin’s interest in the concept of invisibility was innocent as first. As he fell into the hole of “what if’s,” he quickly became greedy, selfish, and power hungry. With the power and ability of being invisible, Griffin wanted to be a thief and acquire endless riches. Although Griffin is the face of Greed and Self-Interest, other characters are guilty of it, such as Mrs. Hall. In chapter three, Wells writes, “He was so odd, standing there, so aggressive and explosive, bottle in one hand and test-tube in the other, that Mrs. Hall was quite alarmed. But she was a resolute woman. “In which case, I should like to know, sir, what you consider -”” (Wells 18). It only makes sense that Mrs. Hall would be alarmed by Griffin wanting to experiment with chemicals inside the Inn.
Though, Griffin uses this to his advantage to expose Mrs. Hall’s greed by offering to give her more money. As long as Mrs. Hall benefits from Griffin’s mysterious ways, she will not exploit him. In chapter eleven, when Cuss and Bunting are investing Griffin’s room and his belongings, they find his notebooks. Though, they are written in cypher so they are not able to understand what Griffin’s notes say. Griffin appears, and says to them, “”Listen,” said the voice. “The windows are fastened and I’ve taken my key out of the door. I am a fairly strong man, and I have the poker handy – besides being invisible. There’s not the slightest doubt that I could kill you both an get away quite easily if I wanted to – do you understand? Very well. If I let you go will you promise not to try any nonsense and do what I tell you”” (Wells 60)? This shows that Griffin has no shame in his game. He seems not to care much about morality, crime, or the consequences of his actions. The fact he says he could easily get away with murder makes him overestimate his power. While talking to Dr. Kemp, his colleague from medical school in chapter twenty, he says, “”It’s probably been killed…. As a matter of fact I was worked out; the intense stress of nearly four years’ continuous work left me incapable of any strength of feeling. I was apathetic, and I tried in vain to recover the enthusiasm of my first inquiries, the passion of the discovery that had enabled me to compass even the downfall of my father’s grey hairs”” (Wells 109-110).
In this chapter, Griffin talks to Kemp about the death of his father and an experiment he did on a cat. Even attending his father’s funeral, he felt no remorse and that his father’s death was his own fault and a result of his foolishness. When first experimenting the possibility of invisibility, he experimented on a cat. As a result of the experiment, the cat’s claws and the color of its eyes remained visible and put the cat in a lot of pain. These two events show that Griffin has no remorse for both humans and animals. Later, Griffin blames his lack of sympathy on his strainful work. Though, it seems like he is naturally apathetic. Griffin’s life lacks joy, sociality, and sympathy. Greed and Self-Interest relates back to the novel itself because it is the foundation of everything that occurs throughout the novel. Griffin gets a little taste of power with the ability to be invisible and uses that to exploit the other characters to turn a blind eye to his actions. Griffin thinks that there are no consequences to his terror on the village and that he could easily get away with anything that he does. Due to the lack of joy and sociality in his life, it seems this is his way to cope with being alone. Each character in the novel shows Greed and Self-Interest in their own way, but the outcome of it is still dangerous and has its consequences.
Characterization refers to the techniques that writers use to develop characters (“Characterization”). There are two types of characterization – direct and indirect. Direct characterization is used when “the author makes direct comments about a character’s nature or uses a physical description of the character” (“Characterization”). “Indirect characterization is when a character’s nature may be revealed through his or her own speech, thoughts, feelings, or actions” (“Characterization”).
According to Merriam Webster and Litcharts, tone is the “style or manner of expression in speaking or writing” and mood is “its general atmosphere or emotional complexion.”
By using symbol, theme, characterization, tone, and mood, Wells defines the science fiction genre.