The Invisible Man, H.G. Wells – A Book Review (& Some Added Thoughts)

Who hasn’t heard of the Invisible Man? It’s a classic story. We probably all know the image of a man wrapped in white bandages, a hat tipped low over his face, big sunglasses to hide his eyes; being a classic, the Invisible Man is often referenced in pop culture. To this day, H.G. Wells remains an influential literary figure. It’s little surprise that he was nominated for a Nobel Prize 4 times!

The Invisible Man

The plot of the story is simple enough. A man turns himself invisible, and spends his time trying to become visible once more.

His consistent failures, and the stress of hiding his mistake from the world, affect the Invisible Man, Griffin, in profound ways; namely by amplifying the negative qualities which were already present in his personality.

He (Griffin) already felt different from others due to his albinism. Dedicating himself to his studies, Griffin spent much of his time locked away in his room, both before and after his experiment, further secluding himself from society. His brief encounters with others as a visible man show him to be unagreeable and short-tempered, slamming doors and even grabbing others in, as he puts it, “fits of temper.” These fits of temper only get more extreme as his attempts at becoming visible again continue to fail.

PSYCHOLOGY

Secluded and focused on his studies for 4 years, Griffin’s goal before becoming invisible is to become famous by scientific discovery. With little human interaction and quickly running out of money, the thought of fame must have been a comforting one. With fame would come money, acceptance, and, perhaps most important of all, fame would validate the man’s feelings of superiority. Surely he felt different from others in “provincial” society, and he wants to prove that these differences are because of his high intelligence, which he feels entitles him to fame and wealth.

Along with the fame would come freedom. And power. Griffin contemplates any and all advantages which may be gotten from becoming invisible, but neglects consideration of any drawbacks.

He’s irresponsibly driven by selfishness and unrealistic expectations. Who knows, perhaps if he had been more social during his studies he might have seen how invisibility would impair his ability to form relationships with other people. Maybe, by viewing another person’s attire, he might have considered that an invisible man must need invisible clothing to retain his mystery. Unfortunately, he never cared for human interaction much to begin with, showing indifference even at the death of his own father.

Already an unempathetic and violent individual, Griffin’s invisibility pushes him to criminal behavior beyond what he’d already done as a visible man. Rather than presenting himself to the scientific community and claiming his fame as an invisible man, he begins stealing, assaulting, and taking all of the easy roads he can think to take in life. These behaviors are nothing new to him, however, the thought of being able to get away with it so much easier only leads Griffin to act more extremely. After all, who could solve a crime when there are no witnesses? How could he be caught if he can’t be seen?

Final Thoughts

The Invisible Man is, first and foremost, a sci-fi novel about personal accountability and thinking through all possible outcomes before embarking on an endeavor. Beyond that, it’s a horror novel about the psychological effects of having an unhealthy self-image, paired with the negative effects of seclusion, be it self imposed or otherwise. I’m no doctor, but I can imagine that having self-image issues such as a superiority complex could be considered unhealthy.

I can’t help but wonder, are Griffin’s poor relationships with others what lead him to become so selfish, or are they a result of his selfishness? A selfish person doesn’t care much about maintaining healthy relationships, after all. Had he spent more time with people, might he have been able to overcome his superiority complex? Could he have been able to take pride in his work ethic and dedication to his craft without looking down on other people who he perceived to be less intelligent than he? Or would attempts at maintaining relationships only work to aggravate his temper and set him further in his ways?

The Invisible Man teaches us that unhealthy perceptions of ourselves, when left unchecked, will inevitably lead to self destruction, be it intentional or otherwise.

Read the full text here!


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