Study Guide

The Invisible Man

by H. G. Wells

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What is a literary classic and why are these classic works important to the world?

A literary classic is a work of the highest excellence that has something important to say about life and/or the human condition and says it with great artistry. A classic, through its enduring presence, has withstood the test of time and is not bound by time, place, or customs. It speaks to us today as forcefully as it spoke to people one hundred or more years ago, and as forcefully as it will speak to people of future generations. For this reason, a classic is said to have universality.

Herbert George Wells was born on September 21, 1866, in Kent, England, to a working-class family, who felt that the child would assume his proper place in British society as a common laborer. After a series of menial jobs that disgusted him, Wells found some pleasure as a teaching assistant, and he completed college in 1888.

Wells married a cousin, then divorced her; he later remarried and, despite numerous affairs, he and Amy Catherine Robbins remained together until her death in 1927.

His first book, The Time Machine, published serially in magazines and eventually as a book in 1895, was an immediate success with both critics and the public. Consequently, Wells had no financial worries for the rest of his life.

His next three books are very well known and helped cement his reputation as the father of modern science fiction: The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), and The War of the Worlds (1898). Wells also gained notoriety through his support of various causes, among them equal rights for women, evolution, socialism, and the improvement of humanity through the application of scientific principles. Despite his desires to be an advocate for social change, Wells is better known and respected for his many writings, which have been enormously successful through the years, both as novels and as movies.

H. G. Wells died of cancer in 1946, living long enough to see many of the ideas he formulated in his novels come to fruition.