Reading Pointers

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Last Updated on January 19, 2017, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 744

Reading Pointers for Sharper Insight

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Consider these points as you read The Invisible Man:

Griffin as a sympathetic character: Throughout the course of the story, it is difficult, at times, to view Griffin as a sympathetic character. In the beginning, his privacy is compromised, but his insolence, anger, arrogance, and seemingly evil nature make it hard for the reader to like his character. As the story progresses, it becomes even more difficult based on Griffin's lack of empathy for others. In the end, however, it is clear that Griffin truly is a character deserving of respect because of his past and the implied reasoning for his scientific research.

Psychological: Griffin's mental state is a direct result of the scientific advancement he has made. Becoming invisible has caused him to lose touch with the rest of humanity; therefore, he has also lost many of the emotions essential for a successful social life. Once invisible, Griffin's character is changed, and he no longer values human life. Even though we have little knowledge of his personality prior to the discovery of invisibility, he does go through psychological changes throughout the course of the story.

Societal pressures: As the story begins, Griffin desires his privacy, but because his appearance is suspicious and his actions odd and curious, the townspeople are unable to make much sense out of him, a serious situation in a small English town in the late nineteenth century. Griffin, too, is suspicious of the motives of the townspeople. He has a secret he wants to keep and does not want to risk betrayal. Take note of the result that occurs because of the townspeople's curiosity. In addition, a very important and subtle piece of information is divulged in the Epilogue that reveals Griffin's own motive for wanting to become invisible.

Industrialization: The Invisible Man, written by Wells in 1897, seems to be pinpointing the problematic nature of scientific and industrial advances that he saw as having harmed society physically and psychologically. Griffin, a man with expansive knowledge, longs to discover a scientific breakthrough. He reached his goal, but it does not turn out as he had planned because neither society nor the individual can cope with the magnitude of the discovery of invisibility.

Societal fears of the Different: Griffin was viewed as different, even before he became invisible because of his physical appearance. Once his experiment was successful, however, he became a threat to society because of his knowledge and the power he obtained (or the power society thought he obtained) from his invisibility. What problems does Griffin encounter with his invisibility that he did not account to prior to becoming invisible? Why were these problems overlooked? Keep these questions in mind as you read through the story.

The Epilogue: Wells' use of irony is apparent throughout the course of this story, but especially in the Epilogue. The innkeeper is depicted as a common man, poor, without family, seemingly ordinary in all respects, but he lies about the Invisible Man's secrets. The landlord, as the only one who possesses Griffin's notebooks, says that he would not use the power of invisibility as Griffin did if he were able to decipher the code. But Wells concludes by having him say, “I'd just—well!” This final comment makes the reader wonder if humanity's acquisition of forbidden knowledge is worthwhile.

  • Amy Post – As previously noted, Amy Post was a friend to Harriet Jacobs and was the person who urged her to write Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Ms. Post's testimonial is included in the book because publishers deemed it necessary for slave narratives to include endorsements by whites. These endorsements would testify to the credibility and authenticity of the work.
  • prepossessing – attractive, striking
  • impelled – driven, compelled
  • disinthralment – [disenthrallment] – the act of freeing from bondage
  • “…she is obliged to earn her living by her own labor…” – After gaining her freedom, Harriet Jacobs worked as a seamstress. She also made money running a boarding house in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
  • Empire State – the nickname for the state of New York
  • “ ‘I served for my liberty as faithfully as Jacob served for Rachel.’ ” – This is a reference to the story of Jacob and Rachel, from the book of Genesis in the Old Testament. Jacob fell in love with Rachel, but he had nothing to give her family in return for her hand in marriage. Instead, he offered to work for seven years under Rachel's father to gain permission to marry her.

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