The novel “The Invisible Man: A Grotesque Romance”, generally known simply as “The Invisible Man”, by H.G. Wells was published for the first time in 1897. The novel is available on Project Gutenberg’s website.
When a stranger arrives at an inn in the English village of Iping, everyone can immediately notice that he’s not a person like any other. The man is in fact completely covered from head to toe, with a bandaged face and a fake nose. From the very beginning he shows he’s a recluse and the local people start wondering about him.
The stranger’s weirdness increases when what’s supposed to be his luggage have content quite out of the ordinary. The man claims he wants only to conduct a complex scientific research and doesn’t tolerate the innkeeper’s interference. When the woman asks him to pay his rent, the man reveals his invisibility.
“The Invisible Man” is the story of a scientist who has discovered a technique to make a person – and not only – invisible, but after having successfully tested it on himself, he can’t return visible. To try to work in peace on that problem he moves to a village where he spends his time in an inn’s room but his experiments don’t have the desired results causing a series of consequences he didn’t anticipate.
H. G. Wells narrated his two previous classics in the first person from their respective protagonists’ point of view, this time he tells the story in the third person following various characters’ point of view. That’s because the author was interested in telling the story of the time traveler and that of the castaway who discovers what’s happening on the island of Dr. Moreau while in this case he was interested in telling the various reactions of Iping’s inhabitants to the arrival of the Invisible Man and to the subsequent events.
The reader slowly discovers the Invisible Man along with the other characters, so much so that only about halfway into the novel his surname – Griffin – is revealed. Initially the protagonist is indicated only as the stranger and then as the Invisible Man to confirm the style used by H.G. Wells to reveal information about him.
The local inhabitants immediately start talking about the protagonist wondering who he is, where he comes from and initially why he covers himself completely. Initially it’s a curiosity due to the fact that he’s completely covered but the reactions become more intense as a result of the weirdness that man manifests and the situation becomes difficult with the discovery of his invisibility.
The Invisible Man is very isolated but that’s what he wants because he’s always in his room, busy with his experiments of which at a certain point their nature is revealed. That isolation is a very obvious element of the novel but in its course H.G. Wells develops more subtly the ethical problems connected to his work.
Initially the Invisible Man’s research seems obsessive but the really negative connotations increase in the course of the novel. His choices reveal his selfish motivations in conducting scientific research without ethical bases. This is a problem that was developed many times in literature – not only in the science fiction genre – and is still crucial in the 21st century.
The Invisible Man’s actions also have consequences on his mental state. The result is that the story that started as a scientific research degenerates into a clash between Griffin and the local inhabitants. For this reason, the description of his actions takes on increasingly horror tones.
Invisibility can give some advantages but H.G. Wells focuses on its disadvantages, which are in part a consequence of the way the Invisible Man acts. The author’s conclusions about a certain type of attitude without ethics are clear when he tells the protagonist’s end.
In many ways “The Invisible Man” is a tragedy narrated with a style in some ways of the time in which it was written, as a chronicle of events albeit characterized by realism in telling ordinary people’s reactions. It’s become one of H.G. Wells’ classics but it’s definitely still very relevant and that’s why it’s still worth reading.