The novel is quite short and is usually categorized as a novella (one of several that Wells wrote throughout his life). Today, Griffin, better known as “the Invisible Man,” is an iconic character who has appeared in movies and television shows. But, despite his more favorable depiction in some of these adaptions, in Wells’ original novel, he is far from likable. From the beginning of the book, it becomes clear that he has no regard for anyone else and is solely focused on advancing his own experiments and carrying out his murderous “Reign of Terror.”
Spoiler Free Summary
The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells is a clever, short novella that describes the exploits of the “Invisible Man.” The man, whose real name is Griffin, turns up at an inn at the beginning of the book. A deep mystery surrounds his identity and intentions. But, it soon becomes clear that through his experimentations, he’s managed to turn himself invisible and is planning a “Reign of Terror” across the country. The small town residents recognize the danger he poses and do what they can to apprehend him.
The Invisible Man Summary
Spoiler alert: important details of the novel are revealed below.
The Invisible Man begins with the main character Griffin (later the Invisible Man), arriving at a local inn in the village of Iping in West Sussex, England. The man arrives in a snowstorm and is entirely covered by clothing. That is, except for his face, which is wrapped up in bandages. It’s clear that he has a prosthetic nose as well.
To match his eccentric appearance, Griffin has an unusual personality. He is reclusive and very unfriendly. This is something that does not sit well with the locals who, living in a small town, are used to knowing and getting along with everyone. The man wants to be left alone and spends almost all of his time in his room working with laboratory equipment. The only time he comes out is at night.
More than once, he causes accidents with his experiments. Mrs. Hall, who, along with her husband, owns the inn, demands that Griffin pays for the damage to their inn.
He continues to act oddly, ordering strange shipments to the hotel and becoming the talk of the town. Around that time, a burglary occurs in Iping at the same time that Griffin is known to be running out of money. He should be paying his bill but isn’t able to. It’s at this point that he reveals the truth of his invisibility to the innkeeper while he’s suffering a fit of anger.
They try to stop him, but, Griffin takes off his clothes and is therefore rendered entirely invisible. He flees to the South Downs, a coastal region of England, and there meets Thomas Marvel, a homeless man who Griffin wants to help complete another robbery. The two go back to the village along with Griffin’s notebooks. But, Thomas is not in the business of being ordered around and is fairly clever himself. He tries to betray Griffin, who reacts angrily and threatens to kill him. But Thomas escapes to Port Burdock.
Griffin takes shelter from locals in a nearby home belonging to Dr. Kent, an instructor he knew in medical school. It’s here that readers learn a bit more about Griffin’s history. He is a former medical student suffering from albinism who became entirely consumed by the possibility of turning himself invisible. Griffin explains to Kemp and to the reader how he experimented with invisibility. He tried it on a cat at first, burned down the boarding house in an attempt to cover his tracks, and realized, after the experiments worked, that he would struggle to survive.
He stole what he needed, and his already poor personality and selfish motives worsened. Griffin is trying to reverse his invisibility but has yet to succeed. Since it seems permanent, Griffin confides in Dr. Kemp that he plans to use his invisibility to terrorize the entire country.
Despite thinking he can trust Dr. Kemp, Griffin soon realizes that Kemp has denounced him to the authorities and is, at that very moment, waiting for help to arrive. The police turn up, and Griffin fights his way out of the house. He leaves Kemp a note, telling him that he’ll be the first person he kills during his reign of terror.
While running from the police, Griffin kills a bystander with an iron bar. He also shoots the chief of police and breaks into Dr. Kemp’s house. He tries to kill the man by strangling him. The mob successfully corners Griffin, and they beat him to death. At the end of the book, in an epilogue, it’s revealed that the homeless man, Thomas Marvel, has stolen Griffin’s notes and is trying to re-create his experiments with no success.
How does The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells end?
The book ends with Griffin being beaten to death by the residents of Iping. They find him at Dr. Kemp’s home and stop him before he can kill anyone else.
What are some themes in The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells?
Some of the themes of this unique novel are isolation, science (specifically the dangers that thoughtless scientific advancement pose), and community. The latter is seen through the way that the villagers of Iping work together to stop Griffin.
Who is the villain in The Invisible Man?
The villain of H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man is Griffin, the Invisible Man himself. He takes the role of the main character and antagonist. He is incredibly unlikeable and only becomes more so throughout the novel as it’s revealed that he has no real redeeming features.
What is the central message of The Invisible Man?
The central message is that not all scientific advancement is good. Griffin makes incredible strides in his specific field of science. But, just because he discovered something new doesn’t mean that he should’ve.