“The Invisible Man” is a science fiction novella by the English writer H.G. Wells. The story was first published in serial format in a magazine called “Pearson’s Weekly” in 1897. The novella was published on its own later that year due to the public interest. The novella is told in the third person and revolves around a scientist named Griffin who discovers a formula that is capable of making a person invisible indefinitely.
To escape his monotonous life and the threat of his landlord kicking him out, Griffin turns himself invisible and begins committing robberies and pranking people. Soon, however, Griffin decides that he wants to return to normal and begins trying to find a reverse formula. He dresses himself up in costumes and tries to stay at an inn to work out the formula but is soon discovered and run out of the Inn. Griffin befriends a homeless man who he asks to help him retrieve his notes, but the man runs off with the notes and Griffin falls into despair and rage.
In trying to find the homeless man, Griffin runs into his old school friend, Kemp to whom he confesses his amazing story. Kemp tries to get Griffin arrested, and Griffin retaliates by trying to kill Kemp. In the end, Griffin is killed by a crowd with shovels after being hunted down by the townspeople.
The novella has been adapted many times into films, TV-series, plays, radio serials and graphic novels over the hundred years since its release.
During a fierce snowstorm, a stranger walks into the bar at an inn in Iping, England named the Coach and Horses. The stranger has a very odd appearance. His skin is covered. He is even wearing old fashioned goggles and a napkin-like covering his mouth. Only the stranger’s nose peeks out of the get-up.
The innkeeper, Mrs. Hall gives him a room and describes him. “All his forehead above his blue glasses was covered by a white bandage, …another covered his ears, leaving not a scrap of his face exposed excepting only his pink, peaked nose. …The thick black hair, escaping as it could below and between the cross bandages, projected in curious tails and horns, giving him the strangest appearance conceivable”. Mrs. Hall assumes that the man was in some scarring accident. She attempts to determine what the accident was but the man refuses to say anything about it.
That afternoon, a clockmaker named Teddy Henfrey arrives at the Coach and Horses as requested by Mrs. Hall. Mrs. Hall wishes him to fix a clock in the stranger’s room. The two enter the room without knocking, and the stranger has his mouth uncovered. For a moment, Mrs. Hall thinks that he has an impossibly large mouth before he covers it again. The stranger complains that he is an “experimental investigator” and that he has some important research that could be tampered with easily. He would like to be left alone.
He tells her that he was in an accident and, as a result, his eyes are now very sensitive to light. Mrs. Hall leaves Henfrey to fix the clock and Henfry purposefully takes more time than he needs to try and work out the mystery of the stranger. However, the stranger soon figures out his game and tells him to hurry so that he can leave. Henfrey wonders if the man is wanted by the police. On the way back home, he bumps into Mrs. Hall’s husband and warns the man about the stranger. Mr. Hall is drunk, but he becomes suspicious nonetheless until his wife warns him to mind his own business.
The stranger arrived at the inn on February 29th. The following day, his luggage was brought to the inn by a man named Fearenside. The stranger had a lot of luggage and included in it are boxes of glass bottles. While the stranger is overseeing the luggage former friends in, Fearenside’s dog attacks him and rips his pants and his glove. The stranger suddenly hurries away to change his clothes.
Mr. Hall goes to check on the stranger and enters the room without knocking. The narration reveals that he sees something strange, but not what specifically. He is shoved out of the room before he can determine what he saw. The stranger returns to get his boxes and begins unpacking the bottles. When Mrs. Hall enters to bring him his dinner, she sees that the man seems to have very hollow eye sockets. The stranger complains about being interrupted once again. Mrs. Hall notices that the man is making a large mess and he tells her that she can bill him for it. Fearenside tells Henfrey that he saw the strangers leg when his dog attacks him and it appeared to be black.
Months pass in this way. The stranger continues to tell Mrs. Hall to bill him extra for the mess that he is making until around April, he starts to run out of money. The people of Iping continue to speculate about the stranger. Many think that he is a criminal or a lunatic.
One day, the town’s doctor, Cuss, goes to visit the stranger to inquire about his experiments. The reader is not privy to the conversation, but Cuss runs out of the room and straight to the town’s vicar. Later it is revealed that when Cuss was speaking to the stranger, he noticed that the man’s sleeve appeared to be empty. The man also used his invisible hand to tweak Cuss’ nose. The night the vicar’s house is robbed but he is not able to see anyone committing the crime.
The next day, Mr. and Mrs. Hall notice that the stranger is not in his room and take the opportunity to snoop around. However, when they open the door they hear a few sneezes and furniture begins flying around the room. Mrs. Hall superstitiously assumes that the stranger has infested her Inn with ghosts.
The next day, the stranger tells Mrs. Hall that he has come by some more money and is ready to pay his bill. This would make everyone in town wonder if he was behind the burglary at the vicar’s house. Accusations begin to fly. The stranger gets so upset that he finally reveals himself to the people in the bar. “You don’t understand,” he said, “who I am or what I am. I’ll show you. By Heaven! I’ll show you.” Then he put his open palm over his face and withdrew it. The center of his face became a black cavity.
Chaos erupts. Even the townspeople who were not in the bar come running from their homes to see what the screaming is about. The constable is sent for, and when he comes to arrest the stranger, he finds a headless man sitting at the bar eating bread and cheese. The stranger tells them that he is the Invisible Man. He fights with the constable and the crowd and just when he is about to surrender he removes his clothes. Instantly, he is fully invisible. He begins beating on the crowd again but since no one can see where the blows are coming from panic arises again. The constable is knocked down to unconsciousness or possibly death.
Nearby, a man named Gibbins is napping in his field when he hears a voice and sneeze that seemingly come from nowhere. On the other side of town, a homeless man named Mr. Marvel is staring at two pairs of boots that he has been given by charity when he hears a voice. As he cannot see who is talking, Marvel wonders if he is going insane. To prove that he is real, the Invisible Man throws a rock at Marvel. The Invisible Man tells Marvel that he knows the man is an outcast too and that he needs help. He promises to reward the man for his help before sneezing again.
Back at the inn, now that the Invisible Man has left the people to start to calm down. Though the event was inexplicable, people begin to go back to their normal lives. However, another stranger soon comes into Iping. The stranger, whom the reader can recognize as Marvel from his shabby top hat, acts suspiciously around the inn. Marvel has an altercation with a shopkeeper over suspected stealing of food, but when the man goes to chase him, he is knocked to the ground by someone that he doesn’t see.
The narrator then takes the reader back to what happened before the stealing incident. That day, Cuss and the vicar go through the papers and journals in the Invisible Man’s room. They hope to glean some insight into what the man was experimenting on and how he came to be invisible but come up short. They cannot understand any of the man’s notes, and they do not even appear to be written in English.
Marvel enters the room and lets the Invisible Man in, though the others cannot see him. Cuss and the vicar command Marvel to leave, and he complies. When he leaves, the lock the door so no one else will come in. However, the Invisible man then starts beating the two men, and no one can come to their aid with the door locked. The Invisible Man demands to know where his things are and threatens to kill them.
Outside, Henfrey and Mr. Hall overhear the fight and start to investigate, but Mrs. Hall stops them, assuming they are just spying on Cuss and the vicar. Just then, the shopkeeper accuses Marvel of shoplifting and yells at him as he runs after the man. The people in the inn go out to see what the shopkeeper is yelling about and see Marvel running off. They assume that Marvel is the Invisible Man made visible. Everyone starts after Marvel, but the real Invisible Man trips them. Cuss comes out of the Inn and reveals that the Invisible Man stole his and the vicar’s clothes.
The Invisible Man starts beating the crowd again. “His temper, at no time very good, seems to have gone completely at some chance blow, and forthwith he set to smiting and overthrowing, for the mere satisfaction of hurting.” The Invisible Man goes on to break all of the windows at the Inn and cut the telegraph cable.
The next chapter begins with the Invisible Man yelling at Marvel. The Invisible Man claims that Marvel tried to run away with his things, including his research notes. Marvel swears that this was not the case. Calmer now, the Invisible Man is worried that his assault of the town will end up in the paper.
The next day, Marvel stands on a beach in Port Stowe, chatting with a sailor. The sailor talks about the Invisible Man that he read about in the paper. Marvel confesses to the man that he knows the Invisible Man, thinking that the Invisible Man is not around. However, he is around and starts hurting Marvel to get him to stop talking. Marvel quickly changes his story, saying that the Invisible Man is just a hoax. He leaves quickly. Later, the sailor overhears stories about robberies nearby where people watched their money float away. This makes him realize just how close he was to the Invisible Man on the beach.
Above the town of Burdock, a scientist named Dr. Kemp is looking out his window when he sees a man with a shabby top hat running with a fearful expression. He assumes that the man is just another fool who believes in the Invisible Man and dismisses him.
At a nearby pub called The Jolly Cricketers, a group of people is chatting when Marvel suddenly bursts in and yells that the Invisible Man is chasing him. Windows start breaking of their own accord, and the bartender hides Marvel in the back room. An American with a gun readies himself to shoot the Invisible Man when he comes to the door, but the Invisible Man sneaks in through the back door and attacks Marvel. The man with the gun fires it and feels sure that he hit the Invisible Man. He tells everyone to feel around on the floor for the body.
Dr. Kemp hears the gun being fired and looks outside to see a crowd gathering outside the pub. Someone rings his doorbell, but his housemaid tells him that when she answered it, there was no one at the door.
A little while later, as Kemp is heading to bed, he notices some blood on the floor. When he opens his bedroom door he sees bloody bandages floating in the air. The Invisible Man knows Kemp’s name. He tells him not to panic but Kemp, overwhelmed, tries to flee. The Invisible Man wrestles Kemp to the ground. He tells Kemp that they went to school together and that his real name is Griffin. He reminds him of their time together, saying that he once won a medal for chemistry at University College.
Kemp calms down and offers Griffin some clothes, whiskey, and a cigar. Griffin takes the lot, and when he smokes the cigar, it outlines his nose and throat. Griffin tells Kemp that the bullet that shot him grazed his wrist, so he isn’t hurt but that Marvel ran off with his money. Griffin says that he is too tired to tell Kemp everything right now and that he needs to sleep but that he doesn’t want people to capture him. Kemp puts him in a bedroom and returns to his own but finds that he cannot sleep. He worries that he has gone insane and whether or not Griffin is dangerous. He decides to write a note to Colonel Adye.
When Griffin wakes in the morning, he is angry and begins tossing Kemp’s furniture around. Kemp tells Griffin that he can only help him if he knows the full story and Griffin agrees to tell him everything. Griffin was a medical student at the same University as Kemp, but Griffin switched majors to physics because of his interest in light. He soon discovered a theory for how to make an object invisible but had no idea how to test it. He didn’t want to publish his research because he worried that his professor, Oliver would get credit for it.
One night, Griffin discovered how to make a human invisible. He began to wonder if making himself invisible would give him an escape from his poverty-stricken life as a teacher. In order to get the money to complete his research, he robbed his father. But the money turned out to belong to someone else and in his despair, his father committed suicide. Griffin found that he did not feel sorry for his father and that the whole world was beginning to seem distant and meaningless to him. He wrote his research in code except for a few parts that he purposefully memorized and left out in case someone ever broke the code.
Griffin continued his research and began experimenting, managing to turn a stray cat invisible. Unfortunately, he was almost found out by a nosy neighbor and ended up getting into a fight with his landlord. He decided to turn himself invisible at this point. The process was painful and when Griffin was done his landlord broke into his room to evict him. But, as the landlord couldn’t see him, Griffin got away. He set his room on fire, destroying all of his equipment except his notes that he had already sent away.
Griffin began living as an invisible man for a while and enjoyed it. He frequently got to pull pranks on people who could not see him. But when he is invisible, he is always cold, and he became ill from it. When Griffin realized that he needed to find some place to live, he broke into a department store and stole some costume items to dress up in that would cover his invisible body entirely. He had to knock out the shopkeeper and tie him up.
He soon realized that being invisible was not all it was cracked up to be and wished to start finding a way to reverse the process. Sending for his notes, he ordered the equipment that he needed and went to the inn in Iping to start his experiments. This was when the novel began. Griffin laments the fact that the townspeople of Iping interrupted his experiments. He is angry at Marvel and wants to kill people.
Outside the window, Kemp sees people coming toward his house and tries to keep Griffin talking. Griffin tells him that he had planned to go somewhere warm where he would not have to wear clothes, but now he has changed his plans. He plans to use his power to kill people with Kemp’s help. But he needs to get his notes back from Marvel who has been put in the town jail for his own safety. Griffin hears the people coming into Kemp’s house and realizes that Kemp has betrayed him. Griffin quickly removes his clothes and becomes invisible again. Kemp and the three men, including Colonel Adye, the police captain who Kemp wrote to, try to capture Griffin with no luck.
Kemp tells Adye that Griffin is trying to get to Marvel. He warns Adye that Griffin has gone insane. The town begins hunting for him with dogs and guns. They find that Griffin has killed an old man named Wicksteed by beating him to death with an iron rod. There were no witnesses, but some men nearby heard a voice “wailing and laughing, sobbing and groaning” and the narrator posits that Griffin was upset after killing the old man.
Griffin struggles to find shelter since the town is searching for him and all of the houses are locked. He sends Kemp a letter telling him that “Port Burdock is no longer under a Queen, tell your Colonel of the Police, and the rest of them; it is under m – the Terror! This is day one of year one of the new epoch – the Epoch of the Invisible Man.” He goes on to say that he is going to kill Kemp that day.
Kemp tells his housekeeper to lock all of the windows and get his gun ready. He writes to Adye that he intends to act as bait to catch Griffin. Unfortunately, Griffin sees the note and gets wise to the plan. When he arrives at Kemp’s house, he begins breaking windows but cannot enter. Adye tries to go for help, but Griffin stops him and grabs his gun. The narrator switches to Kemp’s point of view in an upstairs window. He sees Adye fight Griffin and then gets shot.
Griffin starts breaking the shutters on the windows while Kemp’s housemaid comes up the hill with two policemen. Griffin fights the policemen and knocks one of them out but the other cop hurts Griffin somehow, and there is a snapping sound as Griffin drops the ax that he was using and runs away. The policemen realize that Kemp and his housemaid have also run off. From the point of view of Kemp’s neighbor, the reader is told that Kemp flees through his garden toward town. When he finds a group of workmen, he yells about the Invisible Man and the workmen begin trying to find him.
Griffin grabs Kemp, and the workmen knock him down. Another huge fight ensues with the workmen beating Griffin with their shovels until he cries for mercy and a choking sound follows. Kemp tries to help Griffin, but he seems not to be breathing. Slowly, Griffin starts to become visible. He is still naked, and the townspeople cover his body.
In the epilog, it is revealed that Marvel bought an inn/bar in Port Stowe and named it “The Invisible Man.” He got to keep the money from the robbery and also got money from doing a one man show about his time helping Griffin. Kemp has been looking for Griffin’s notes, but Marvel insists that he does not have them. However, in Marvel’s narration, he reveals that he does have the notes and he occasionally looks at them although he cannot make any sense of them. Marvel wonders if he might be able to turn himself invisible by using the notes.
The Invisible Man/Griffin – the main character of the story. Griffin is a scientist who discovered a formula for turning invisible when he is in University. For the first 2/3 of the novel, Griffin’s name and identity are not revealed. Later on, he reveals his story to Kemp. Griffin was tempted to use his invisibility formula on himself because he wanted to escape his boring, normal life and the poverty that he believes he lives in.
However, within a short time, Griffin realizes that he does not wish to live as an invisible man and desires to make himself visible again but does not know how to do so. To have somewhere to stay while he works out his reverse formula, he rents a room at the Coach and Horses.
From the start, Griffin is not a people person. This is most accurately shown when he confesses that he did not feel sorry after his father killed himself. After he is kicked out of the inn and fights with the townspeople, Griffin’s faith in people sinks even further. His anger turns into a murderous rage. He begins killing indiscriminately and plans to kill Kemp for betraying him. Griffin does seem to feel shame and regret over his murderous acts, as when bystanders hear him crying after killing the old man. In the end, Griffin is killed by the group of workmen and reverts to his visible form.
Dr. Kemp – it is difficult to determine whether Kemp is a hero or the antagonist of the novel. He betrays Griffin after the man trusts him, but he does so to protect the people that Griffin is trying to hurt. Kemp also acts in his own self-interest when he flees Griffin after the man has attacked his home.
Kemp is a very intelligent man. He works out the plan for how to capture Griffin although his former friends near omnipotence make the plan go awry. Kemp is a speculative philosopher, and the narration says that he is working on speculations about “the social conditions of the future.” Wells is obviously referencing his other novel “The Time Machine,” in Kemp’s work. But the nature of Kemp’s work makes him similar to Griffin. Both men want recognition for their work, but Griffin takes it to a murderous level.
Mr. Marvel – the homeless man that Griffin enlists to help him get his notes and papers back. Though he seems to fear Griffin, Marvel becomes somewhat of a sidekick to the Invisible Man until he eventually double-crosses him and steals all of the money they’ve been taking as well as his notes.
Griffin unsuccessfully attempts to kill Marvel, but the homeless man gets away. In the end, he uses the money to buy a pub that he names after the Invisible Man and seems to be interested in carrying on Griffin’s work in turning himself invisible.
H.G. Wells Biography
Herbert George (or H.G.) Wells was an English author and political philosopher, most famous for his science-fiction novels with this prophetic depictions of the triumphs of technology as well as the horrors of 20th-century warfare.
Wells was born in Bromley, Kent, England in 1866 and educated at the University of London. He worked as a draper’s apprentice, tutor, bookkeeper and professional journalist until 1895 when he decided to become a full-time writer. In the next 50 years, he produced more than 80 original works. His novel “The Time Machine” mixed science, action and political commentary. Later works in this genre are: “The Invisible Man” (1897), “The War of the Worlds” (1898) and “The Shape of Things to Come” (1933), each of these fantasies was made into a motion picture.
Wells fathered four children with his second wife, Amy Catherine Robbins.
He also wrote novels devoted to character delineation. Among these are “Kipps” (1905) and “The History of Mr. Polly” (1910), both of which depict members of the lower middle class and their confused and often humorous attempts to better themselves. Many of Well’s other books can be categorized as thesis novels.
After World War I, Wells wrote an immensely popular historical work, “The Outline of History,” (2 vol. in 1920). Throughout his long life, Wells was deeply concerned with and wrote voluminously about the problems of contemporary civilization. For a time he was Fabian socialist. His later works were increasingly pessimistic, castigating world leaders of the period and expressing his doubts about the ability of humankind to survive.
Wells had diabetes and co-founded of the Diabetic Association in 1934, a foundation which is still the leading support for people with the disease in the U.K today. In 1946 at age 79, Wells died of an unspecified cause which is now believed to have been a heart attack. He was cremated, and his ashes were scattered over the sea. A commemorative plaque still stands at his former home in Regent’s Park.