illustrated portrait of the Invisible Man, whose features are obscured by black cloth

The Invisible Man: A Grotesque Romance

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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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.

His baggage arrives the next day, consisting of several trunks and boxes of books and a crate of bottles packed in straw. The drayman’s dog attacks the stranger, tearing his glove and ripping his trousers. Mr. Hall, landlord of the inn, runs upstairs to see if the stranger was hurt and enters his room without knocking. He is immediately struck on the chest and pushed from the room. When Mrs. Hall takes up the lodger’s supper, she sees that he has unpacked his trunks and boxes and set up some strange apparatus. The lodger is not wearing his glasses; his eyes look sunken and hollow.

In the weeks that follow, the villagers make many conjectures as to the stranger’s identity. Some think he suffers from a strange disease that left his skin spotted. Unusual happenings also mystify the village. One night, the vicar and his wife are awakened by a noise in the vicar’s study and the clinking of money. Upon investigation, they see no one, although a candle is burning and they hear a sneeze.

In the meantime, Mr. Hall finds clothing and bandages scattered about the lodger’s room; the stranger disappears. The landlord goes downstairs to call his wife. They hear the front door open and shut, but no one comes into the inn. While they stand wondering what to do, their lodger comes down the stairs. Where he was and how he returned to his room unnoticed are mysteries that he makes no attempt to explain.

A short time later, the stranger’s bill being overdue, Mrs. Hall refuses to serve him. When the stranger becomes abusive, Mr. Hall swears out a warrant against him. The constable, the landlord, and a curious neighbor go upstairs to arrest the lodger. After a struggle, the man agrees to unmask. The men are struck with horror; the stranger is invisible to their view. In the confusion, the Invisible Man, as the newspapers are soon to call him, flees from the inn.

The next person to encounter the Invisible Man is a tramp named Marvel. The Invisible Man frightens Marvel into accompanying him to the Coach and Horses Inn to get his clothing and three books. They arrive at the inn while the vicar and the village doctor are reading the stranger’s diary. They beat the two men, snatch up the clothes and books, and leave the inn.

Newspapers continue to print stories of unnatural thefts. Money is taken and carried away; the thief is invisible while the money is in plain view. Marvel always seems to be well supplied with funds.

One day Marvel, carrying three books, comes running into the Jolly Cricketers Inn. He says that the Invisible Man is after him. A barman, a policeman, and a cabman await the Invisible Man’s arrival after hiding Marvel; the Invisible Man finds Marvel, however, drags him into the inn kitchen, and tries to force him through the door. The three men struggle with the unseen creature while Marvel crawls into the bar. When...

(This entire section contains 1191 words.)

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the voice of the Invisible Man is heard in the inn yard, a villager fires five shots in the direction of the sound, but searchers find no body in the yard.

Meanwhile, Dr. Kemp works late in his study in Burdock. Preparing to retire, he notices drops of drying blood on the stairs. He finds the doorknob of his room smeared with blood and red stains on his bed. While he stares in amazement at a bandage that is apparently wrapping itself about nothing in midair, a voice calls him by name. The Invisible Man takes refuge in Kemp’s rooms. He identifies himself as Griffin, a young scientist whom Kemp met at the university where both studied. Griffin asks for whiskey and food. He says that except for short naps he did not sleep for three days and nights.

That night, Kemp sits up to read all the newspaper accounts of the activities of the Invisible Man. At last, after much thought, he writes a letter to Colonel Adye, chief of the Burdock police.

In the morning, Griffin tells his story to Kemp. He explains that for three years he experimented with refractions of light on the theory that a human body will become invisible if the cells can be made transparent. He needed money for his work and robbed his father of money belonging to someone else; after that, his father shot himself. At last, his experiments were successful. After setting fire to his room in order to destroy the evidence of his research, he began his strange adventures. He terrorized Oxford Street, where passersby saw only his footprints. He discovered that in his invisible state he was compelled to fast, for all unassimilated food and drink was grotesquely visible. At last, prowling London streets and made desperate by his plight, he went to a shop selling theatrical supplies. There he stole the dark glasses, the sideburns, and the clothes he wore on his arrival in Iping.

Griffin plans to use Kemp’s house as a headquarters while terrorizing the neighborhood. Kemp, believing that Griffin is insane, attempts to restrain him, but the Invisible Man escapes. Shortly thereafter, a man called Mr. Wicksteed is found murdered, and a manhunt begins.

The next morning, Kemp receives a note announcing that the reign of terror is begun; one person will be executed daily. Kemp is to be the first victim. He is to die at noon; nothing can protect him. Kemp sends at once for Colonel Adye. While they are discussing possible precautions, stones are hurled through the windows. The colonel leaves to return to the police station for some bloodhounds to set on Griffin’s trail, but Griffin snatches a revolver from Colonel Adye’s pocket and wounds the police officer. When Griffin smashes Kemp’s kitchen door with an ax, the doctor climbs through a window and runs to a neighbor’s house. He is refused admittance. He runs to the inn. The door is barred. Suddenly, his invisible assailant seizes him. While they struggle, some men come to the doctor’s rescue. Kemp gets hold of Griffin’s arms. A constable seizes his legs. Someone strikes through the air with a spade. The writhing unseen figure sags to the ground. Kemp announces that he cannot hear Griffin’s heartbeats. While the crowd gathers, Griffin’s body slowly materializes, naked, dead. A sheet is brought from the inn, and the body is carried away. The reign of terror ends.