The Invisible Man: A Grotesque Romance Summary

H. G. Wells

The Invisible Man: A Grotesque Romance cover image summary

The Invisible Man Summary

In The Invisible Man, Griffin loses his humanity after unlocking the secret of invisibility. Isolated by his new power, Griffin turns to Dr. Kemp. He confesses his plans to terrorize his neighborhood. Kemp calls the police, and Griffin is killed in the ensuing manhunt.

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

  • 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 in the home of Dr. Kemp. Emboldened by his invisibility, he plans to seeks revenge against the villagers who spurned him. Dr. Kemp thinks he has gone insane and calls the police, who kill Griffin while attempting to apprehend him.


(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...

(The entire section is 466 words.)


(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.

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...

(The entire section is 1191 words.)