The Invisible Man: A Grotesque Romance Summary
by H. G. Wells

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The Invisible Man: A Grotesque Romance Summary

The Invisible Man is a novel by H.G. Wells in which Griffin unlocks the secret of invisibility. Isolated by his new power, he plans to terrorize the neighbors who spurned him.

  • Researcher Griffin spends three years experimenting with light and refraction, attempting to turn himself invisible. He succeeds.

  • In order to interact with the world, Griffin must wear bandages over his face. He arrives in a small village, where the citizens grow suspicious of him.

  • Griffin seeks refuge with Dr. Kemp. Emboldened by his invisibility, he plans to seeks revenge against the villagers who spurned him.
  • Dr. Kemp calls the police, who kill Griffin.

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(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

The Invisible Man is about a lone researcher, Griffin, whose discovery of invisibility alienates him from other people. At first, Griffin merely wants to be left alone, taking a room in a boardinghouse and secluding himself with his apparatus. In the midst of ignorant, prying people, he is a figure of some sympathy and mystery. As his means of support diminishes, however, he feels no compunction about stealing from others, viewing his crimes as a necessary way of continuing his research for a way of reversing his invisibility.

Growing more and more irritable because of the curious who try to discover the purpose of this strange man swathed in bandages, Griffin arrogantly throws people out of his room, and finally he is forced to leave his room, setting off on a cross-country rampage that leads to injury or death for those who get in his way.

Griffin eventually takes refuge in the home of an acquaintance, Dr. Kemp, and confides to Kemp his plans to establish a reign of terror based on his discovery of invisibility. Having lost all sense of humanity, Griffin does not see the impact of his words on Kemp, who promises not to betray Griffin but who almost immediately decides that he cannot allow Griffin to carry out his plans. Summoning the police, Kemp puts his own life in jeopardy, but he survives and an exhausted, irrational Griffin is eventually subdued and killed.

Obviously a portrait of the amoral scientist, The Invisible Man demonstrates Wells’s affection for the common individual and his criticism of modern scientists who forget the purpose of their discoveries and believe that they can legislate the quality of existence for others. The early part of the novel, when Griffin’s motivations and his invisibility are not yet discovered, is the best, for there is much humor and tension built up around the subsidiary characters who come into contact with him.

Wells is less successful in providing Griffin with a convincing account of his discovery of invisibility, and it is somewhat improbable that a man of Griffin’s intellect should completely ignore the practical consequences of traveling around England in January in the nude—the only way to preserve his invisibility. On the other hand, the invention of invisibility is a powerful metaphor standing for precisely that aspect of science—its inaccessibility to the populace—that makes modern science seem at once so impressive and so potentially malign.

Perhaps only a man as antisocial as Griffin could conceive of a scheme that would put him so at odds with his fellow human beings and present him with the opportunity of totally dominating them. Wells rightly foresees in this novel and in others the way in which science sometimes proves to be the perfect instrument of the totalitarian mind.


(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

The stranger arrives at Bramblehurst railway station on a cold, snowy day in February. Carrying a valise, he trudges through driving snow to Iping, where he stumbles into the Coach and Horses Inn and asks Mrs. Hall, the host, for a room and a fire. The stranger’s face is hidden by dark blue spectacles and bushy sideburns.

He has dinner in his room. When Mrs. Hall takes a mustard jar up to him, she sees that the stranger’s head is completely bandaged. While she is in his room, he covers his mouth and his chin with a napkin.


(The entire section is 1,657 words.)