Thank you so much to Roberta Eaton Cheadle for creating another entry into the U. L. S., the Underground Library Society! The U. L. S. is an unofficial group of people who are dedicated to the preservation of books and in complete opposition to censorship. The idea is based on the Book People from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.
The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells
The Invisible Man is a science fiction novel by H.G. Wells that was initially published as a series in 1897.
This book examines human nature and the temptations of immorality to humans. Essentially, the author explores how he believes people would behave if there were no consequences to their actions.
The story starts with a stranger arriving at Iping, a small town in the United Kingdom, and taking lodgings at the Coach and Horses Inn. Mrs. Hall, who runs the inn, is pleased to have the stranger’s unexpected business in the “off” season and gives the stranger, called Griffin, a set of rooms, despite his peculiar attire. Griffin is dressed in a heavy coat, gloves and a hat, and his face is entirely covered by bandages except for his nose. His eyes are hidden by large blue glasses. He doesn’t remove his coat or hat even after Mrs Hall lights a warm fire for him.
Griffin proves to be a rude and selfish guest, but Mrs. Hall tolerates him because of the money he is paying her. He breaks things and demands to be left alone in his rooms while he works with a set of chemicals and laboratory apparatus. He is also never seen without his coat and hat. Mrs Hall decides to ask him to leave as soon as the warmer weather arrives, and other paying guests start arriving.
Griffin continues to live at the Inn for a few months and becomes a topic of speculation by the local people. He is visited by the local doctor, Cuss, who is shocked when Griffin accidentally removes his hand from his pocket and his sleeve is completely empty.
Griffin runs out of money and is unable to settle his bill with Mrs. Hall. They have words and that evening the vicarage is burgled. The following day Griffin pays his bill and Mrs Hall is suspicious.
The villagers confront Griffin about the burglary, and he removes his bandages revealing a black cavity in place of his face. The local police constable attempts to arrest Griffin, but he escapes and starts on a rampage of theft and vengeful behaviour through the countryside. Griffin believes that as he is invisible, he cannot be caught, and he is free to do anything he pleases.
As Griffin descends further into his role as a ‘man on the role’ he becomes more and more aggressive and wild in his behaviour. He also comes to realise that he cannot achieve his dream of dominating other men on his own.
He seeks to gain assistance from firstly, a tramp called Thomas Marvel, and secondly, a doctor and fellow scientist from his days at University College London. Griffin reveals the story of his journey to invisibility to Dr Kemp, as well as his plan to impose a “Reign of Terror and to institute “the Epoch of the Invisible Man.” Dr Kemp is horrified by the level of immorality Griffin has sunk too.
I have selected a few quotations from the book to demonstrate the themes:
Freedom, Anonymity, and Immorality:
“My mood, I say, was one of exaltation. I felt as a seeing man might do, with padded feet and noiseless clothes, in a city of the blind. I experienced a wild impulse to jest, to startle people, to clap men on the back, fling people’s hats astray, and generally revel in my extraordinary advantage.”
The future versus the past:
“And there it was, on a shabby bed in a tawdry, ill-lighted bedroom, surrounded by a crowd of ignorant and excited people, broken and wounded, betrayed and unpitied, that Griffin, the first of all men to make himself invisible, Griffin, the most gifted physicist the world has ever seen, ended in infinite disaster his strange and terrible career.”
Greed and self-interest:
“He is mad,” said Kemp; “inhuman. He is pure selfishness. He thinks of nothing but his own advantage, his own safety. I have listened to such a story this morning of brutal self-seeking…. He has wounded men. He will kill them unless we can prevent him. He will create a panic. Nothing can stop him. He is going out now — furious!”
Skepticism vs. Belief:
“I wish you’d keep your fingers out of my eye,” said the aerial voice, in a tone of savage expostulation. “The fact is, I’m all here:head, hands, legs, and all the rest of it, but it happens I’m invisible. It’s a confounded nuisance, but I am. That’s no reason why I should be poked to pieces by every stupid bumpkin in Iping, is it?
Humans, Science and Nature:
“I went over the heads of the things a man reckons desirable. No doubt invisibility made it possible to get them, but it made it impossible to enjoy them when they are got.”
The Invisible Man is an important book to preserve because it demonstrates that greed and self-interest become corruptive forces. Griffin goes from being a young and enthusiastic scientist with a scientific interest in the possibility of using light and optics to turn a living thing invisible, to someone who uses his invisibility for personal gain and power.
Given the greed and corruption that still blights humanity and human interaction, this book is useful in understanding the process of corruption and the degeneration of decency.
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