A common ‘What If?’ mind game involves asking the question, “If you could have a super power, which would it be: Flight, or Invisibility?" The answer must be rationalized, or tied to logic. This is totally subjective on my part, but the choice of Flight suggests that the player’s personality is revealed to be heroic, romantic, or sort of pro-social. The choice of the power of Invisibility, comparatively, is a furtive affair: a gateway to crime, dark deeds, and clandestine acts.
The Stranger in The Invisible Man is “strange and evil,” true. However, H.G. Wells was known for his grandness of metaphor. Wells’s The War of the Worlds has been cited as a science-fictionalization of the late nineteenth century genre of “Invasion Literature,” not necessarily about Martians, in which a foreign but earthbound military aggressor threatens British sovereignty in the age of Imperialism.
In the same way, The Invisible Man seems to be about the perversion of science and exploration. The Invisible Man’s extended explanation (chapter XIX: First Principles) as to the processes of attaining the power of invisibility is an illustration of the theme of Man Versus Nature, of someone breaking through the limits of physics. This, as Wells demonstrates, puts common humanity at risk.
The Enlightenment, the historic intellectual movement that positioned Science over Superstition, “was seen to have bathed Europe in the light of reason,” to quote Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker (March 4, 2019). But a revisionist view of that era—in its downgrading of faith coupled with the hubris of conquest—has come to be thought of as a hotbed of “racism, colonialism, and most of the other really bad isms.” I’d argue, therefore, that The Invisible Man is a parable of scientific overreach with negative consequences to civilization at large.