Book Review: The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

The Invisible Man
A Grotesque Romance

by H.G. Wells

If you could be endowed with any super power whatsoever, what would you choose? Would you want to be able to fly? Be super strong and faster than a speeding bullet? Climb walls like a spider or have laser vision? Would you want to be invisible? Seriously, I would love to have the cloak of invisibility that Harry Potter had, wouldn’t you? Made a decision yet?

Imagine the things you could do if you were invisible! I think many of us have wished at one time or another, to be a fly on the wall and hear something juicy. A little bit of eavesdropping? Or you could use this gift to help others anonymously. If you were of the bent to use this amazing power inappropriately, you could have that Cartier necklace you have been eyeing or steal money and never be caught. Hmmm…

In HG Wells’s novel of the above title, a young scientist, whom we know only by the last name of Griffin, discovers how to make living things become invisible. He first tries his experiment on a hated neighbor lady’s cat and has success. Thinking of all the advantages he can have by becoming invisible, he performs the experiment on himself and succeeds. He finds that being invisible has many advantages, as he suspected. This thrills him. The possibilities are without limits. However, there are things he encounters that he had never before considered, some of which are definitely problems.

The reader first encounters “the invisible man” as he staggers into the Coach and Horses Inn on a freezing February day shouting out for a room and food in ”the name of human charity.” The landlady, Mrs. Hall, is taken aback not so much by the man’s manner, but by the fact that he is wearing blue bug-eyed goggles, has a pink-tipped nose, and his face and head are covered in white bandages. He commandeers the parlor for his sole use only and since he pays well and in advance, she agrees. The next day a large amount of luggage is delivered to her place with what he tells her is his scientific gear inside. The bandaged man secludes himself in the parlor with his equipment, but she hears him throwing glass against the walls, shattering it, all the while having angry animated conversations with himself. He is secretive and allows no one to ask him questions or see what he is doing.

Strange occurrences and crimes begin to occur in Iping Village and the surrounding areas coinciding with the appearance of the bandaged loner. Literally, the townsfolk don’t know what hits them! This novel looks at society, the use of science for the betterment of the world, and the effects of absolute power.

You might be curious about the subtitle, A Grotesque Romance, since there is no romance, as we think of it, anywhere in the book. By giving the novel this subtitle the author was alluding to the story being an allegory. The tale contains a secret message, in other words, there is more to the story than what is on the surface. Grotesque means horrible. The subtitle also indicates that this novel involves the supernatural. One definition of a romance is a story in which the scenes and characters are not part of ordinary life. On the other hand, a novel uses realistic characters and society.

The Invisible Man is a thought provoking, though somewhat sad, story. The reader has to consider whether or not invisibility is desirable and controllable or not. The story takes some strange turns. The ending was appropriate, but I would have been okay with the story ending being different. Remember, if you will, that I am the person who likes to have everything resolve in a pleasant manner. All things considered, I would give this 3.5 stars out of 5. I liked the author’s The Time Machine better.

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