The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells – English Literature, Classic Novel, Science Fiction

The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells
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The Invisible Man. See page for author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

H.G. Wells, or Herbert George Wells, was an English writer best known for his science fiction novels and is often referred to as the “father of science fiction.” Some of his most famous works include “The War of the Worlds,” “The Time Machine,” “The Invisible Man,” and “The Island of Doctor Moreau.”

Besides science fiction, Wells also wrote extensively on social issues, history, and politics, contributing to his reputation as a forward-thinking intellectual of his time.

In this article, we shall discuss his iconic novel, The Invisible Man, with the help of a few questions.

What is The Invisible Man about?

“The Invisible Man” is a science fiction novel by H.G. Wells, first published in 1897. The story follows a scientist named Griffin who discovers a way to become invisible but struggles with the consequences of his condition. As he becomes increasingly isolated and paranoid, his invisibility leads him to commit crimes and descend into madness.

The novel explores themes of identity, isolation, and the ethical implications of scientific experimentation.

Plot Summary

Griffin arrives in the small English village of Iping, covered in bandages and wearing dark glasses to hide his invisibility. His reclusive and secretive behavior arouses suspicion among the villagers, especially Mrs. Hall, the owner of the inn where he stays. Strange occurrences and Griffin’s violent outbursts eventually lead to the revelation of his invisibility.

As Griffin’s backstory is unveiled, we learn that he was a former medical student who conducted experiments to make himself invisible. However, the process is irreversible, and he becomes increasingly desperate and paranoid. Griffin’s invisibility isolates him from society and drives him to criminal acts in his quest to find a way to reverse the procedure and gain power.

He coerces a tramp named Marvel into helping him retrieve his scientific notes and experiments. Eventually, Griffin seeks refuge with Dr. Kemp, a former acquaintance. However, Kemp realizes the danger Griffin poses and alerts the authorities. Griffin’s increasingly erratic and violent behavior leads to a dramatic manhunt.

The story culminates in a confrontation between Griffin and the villagers, led by Kemp. Griffin is ultimately captured and killed, revealing his invisible body. The novel ends with a reflection on the tragic consequences of Griffin’s ambition and the ethical dilemmas posed by scientific exploration.

What inspired Wells to write the novel?

H.G. Wells was inspired to write “The Invisible Man” by a combination of scientific curiosity, social commentary, and literary influences. Key inspirations include:

Scientific Curiosity

Wells had a keen interest in science and the possibilities of future scientific discoveries. The concept of invisibility fascinated him, particularly its potential impact on human behavior and society.

Social Commentary

Wells often used his novels to critique society and explore ethical issues. In “The Invisible Man,” he delves into themes of power, isolation, and the consequences of unchecked scientific experimentation, reflecting concerns about the misuse of science and technology.

Literary Influences

Wells was influenced by earlier works of fiction that explored invisibility and transformation. Notably, “The Invisible Man” bears similarities to the themes and structure of Mary Shelley‘s “Frankenstein,” another novel about a scientist whose experiments lead to unintended and tragic consequences.

Personal Experiences

Wells’ own experiences and observations of the society around him, including class struggles and the potential for individuals to become alienated from society, also played a role in shaping the novel’s themes and characters.

Who are the primary characters in The Invisible Man?

The primary characters in H.G. Wells’ “The Invisible Man” include:

  1. Griffin: The protagonist of the novel, Griffin is a brilliant but unstable scientist who discovers a way to make himself invisible. His transformation leads to a descent into madness and criminal behavior.
  2. Dr. Kemp: A former acquaintance of Griffin, Dr. Kemp becomes a key figure in the story when Griffin seeks his help. Kemp ultimately opposes Griffin’s plans and works with the authorities to stop him.
  3. Mr. Marvel: A homeless man whom Griffin coerces into becoming his assistant. Marvel is initially intimidated by Griffin but eventually manages to escape with some of his research notes.
  4. Mrs. Hall: The proprietress of the Coach and Horses Inn in the village of Iping, where Griffin initially hides after becoming invisible. She becomes suspicious of Griffin’s behavior and is one of the first to discover his secret.
  5. Colonel Adye: The chief of police in the town of Port Burdock, who aids Dr. Kemp in the effort to capture Griffin.

These characters drive the narrative forward and highlight various themes in the novel, such as the ethical implications of scientific experimentation, the struggle for power, and the consequences of isolation.

What are the themes explored in the novel?

“The Invisible Man” by H.G. Wells explores several themes, including:

The Consequences of Unchecked Scientific Experimentation

The novel delves into the ethical and moral implications of scientific advancements. Griffin’s experiments with invisibility lead to catastrophic consequences, highlighting the dangers of pursuing knowledge without considering the potential repercussions.

Isolation and Alienation

Griffin’s invisibility isolates him from society, both physically and emotionally. His inability to interact normally with others drives him to madness and criminality, emphasizing the human need for social connection.

Power and Corruption

The novel explores how the acquisition of extraordinary power can lead to corruption. Griffin’s invisibility gives him a sense of superiority and entitlement, leading him to commit increasingly violent and immoral acts.

Identity and Invisibility

Griffin’s physical invisibility serves as a metaphor for the loss of identity. As he becomes invisible, he also loses his humanity and moral compass, raising questions about what defines a person’s identity and the importance of being seen and recognized by others.

Fear of the Unknown

The villagers’ reactions to Griffin’s invisibility reflect a broader fear of the unknown and the unexplained. This theme underscores the tension between scientific progress and societal acceptance.

Social and Class Struggles

Through characters like Griffin and Marvel, Wells touches on issues of social class and economic disparity. Griffin’s initial motivation for his experiments is partly driven by a desire to rise above his humble beginnings and achieve greatness.

These themes contribute to the novel’s lasting impact and relevance, as they address fundamental human concerns and the ethical dimensions of scientific innovation.

What is the style in which the novel is written?

“The Invisible Man” is written in a style characteristic of H.G. Wells’ other works, blending several key elements:

Realistic Narrative

Wells employs a straightforward, realistic narrative style, making the extraordinary events of the story seem plausible. He grounds the fantastic elements in scientific rationale and detailed descriptions, enhancing the credibility of the plot.

Third-Person Omniscient Perspective

The novel is narrated from a third-person omniscient point of view, allowing readers to understand the thoughts and motivations of various characters, particularly Griffin. This perspective provides a comprehensive view of the events and their impact on different characters.

Suspense and Tension

Wells masterfully builds suspense throughout the novel. The gradual revelation of Griffin’s invisibility, his escalating actions, and the villagers’ reactions create a sense of tension and anticipation.

Social Commentary

Through his descriptive prose and dialogue, Wells integrates social and ethical commentary. He critiques the misuse of scientific power, the consequences of isolation, and societal reactions to the unknown.

Imagery and Symbolism

The novel uses vivid imagery and symbolism to enhance its themes. Griffin’s invisibility symbolizes the loss of identity and the perils of unchecked ambition. The rural setting of Iping contrasts with the chaos brought by Griffin, emphasizing the disruption of normalcy.


The dialogue in the novel is natural and helps to develop characters and advance the plot. It also serves to reveal the various reactions of characters to Griffin’s invisibility, ranging from curiosity to fear and hostility.

Wells’ style in “The Invisible Man” combines realistic detail with imaginative elements, creating a compelling narrative that explores profound themes while maintaining reader engagement through suspense and clear, evocative prose.

What is the significance and legacy of The Invisible Man?

“The Invisible Man” holds significant literary and cultural value, and its legacy is marked by its lasting impact on science fiction and popular culture. Key aspects of its significance and legacy include:

Pioneering Science Fiction

As one of H.G. Wells’ most famous works, “The Invisible Man” helped to establish the science fiction genre. Its exploration of scientific concepts and their ethical implications set a standard for future works in the genre.

Exploration of Ethical Issues

The novel’s examination of the moral consequences of scientific experimentation continues to be relevant. It raises important questions about the responsibilities of scientists and the potential dangers of technological advancements.

Influence on Popular Culture

“The Invisible Man” has inspired numerous adaptations in film, television, and other media. The concept of invisibility and the character of Griffin have become iconic, influencing countless other works in various genres.

Thematic Depth

The novel’s themes of isolation, identity, power, and corruption resonate with readers and scholars. Its psychological and social insights contribute to its status as a classic of English literature.

Symbolic Significance

The character of Griffin and his invisibility serve as powerful symbols for the potential loss of humanity and identity in the pursuit of power. This symbolism continues to be explored and interpreted in various contexts.

Scientific and Technological Reflection

“The Invisible Man” reflects contemporary anxieties and fascinations with science and technology. It remains a pertinent exploration of the relationship between humanity and scientific progress.

“The Invisible Man” remains a seminal work that has profoundly influenced the science fiction genre and continues to be studied for its rich thematic content and narrative innovation.

Interested in learning about other iconic works of literature?

Check out the following articles:

  1. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  2. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
  3. Dubliners by James Joyce
  4. The Stranger by Albert Camus
  5. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

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