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.
I’ve never read any H.G. Wells before, but this short book was a treat to read!
It’s an idea I wish I’d thought of myself. A man works out how to turn himself invisible, yet finds that being in an invisible state is a lot more of a nuisance than it is an advantage.
The story takes place in a small English town called Iping. The Invisible Man is first introduced as ‘the stranger’, who turns up at an inn swaddled in clothing from head to foot, with even his face covered in bandages. He is a mysterious figure in a quiet town, and perhaps he would have drawn less attention to himself if he was not rude and demanding, but as it is, he storms into the townspeople’s lives with curses and fury.
We learn of the Invisible Man’s condition slowly, as Wells cleverly alludes to it piece by piece. First, the man’s trousers are torn by a dog and someone guesses that he is a black man, as no pink skin showed through the tear. Then, the town’s GP Mr Cuss sees his sleeve without a hand or arm, and is perplexed by how he moves his sleeve without the necessary appendage. Finally, the townspeople are exposed to the man without a head, as his bandages come off.
I love how Wells builds the story up, how the people of the town become hysterical and how it spreads. It’s almost comical. Another thing I love is the depiction of the Invisible Man’s sinking into madness. We hear the tale of how he comes to be invisible later in the book (this in itself is very impressive, and Wells’ account of how a human being can be turned invisible through scientific methods is quite convincing!). We discover that the man (whose name is Griffin) was once quite normal, but became obsessed with this idea of becoming invisible. It then becomes a matter of survival through any means, and it turns out that being invisible is harder work than it seems. He has to resort to violence and inhumanity to get by.
Overall, I think this book is a bit of a commentary on humanity, and how part of our humanity lies in the very tangible and visible nature of our living bodies. Without the ability to see ourselves (or for others to see us), we become less human and may start to believe that different rules apply.