About the Novel
First published in 1952 and immediately hailed as a masterpiece, The Invisible Man is one of those rare novels that have changed the shape of American literature. For not only does Ralph Ellison’s nightmare journey across the racial divide tell unparalleled truths about the nature of bigotry and its effects on the minds of both victims and perpetrators, it gives us an entirely new model of what a novel can be.
As he journeys from the Deep South to the streets and basements of Harlem, from a horrifying “battle royal” where black men are reduced to fighting animals, to a Communist rally where they are elevated to the status of trophies, Ralph Ellison’s nameless protagonist ushers readers into a parallel universe that throws our own into harsh and even hilarious relief. Suspenseful and sardonic, narrated in a voice that takes in the symphonic range of the American language, black and white, The Invisible Man is one of the most audacious and dazzling novels of our century.
Dr. Kemp: Dr. Kemp is a scientist living in the town of Port Burdock. He is an old friend of Griffin, who comes to his house to hide after Griffin’s transformation into the “invisible man”.
Kemp has a hard time accepting the fact that his friend, who he had not seen for years, suddenly appears uninvited and invisible, but eventually he overcomes his shock, sits down and talks with Griffin.
Mr. Hall: Mr. Hall is the husband of Mrs. Hall and helps her run the Coach and Horses Inn. He is the first person in Iping to notice that the mysterious Griffin is invisible: when a dog bites him and tears his glove.
Mrs Hall: Mrs. Hall is the wife of Mr. Hall and the owner of the Coach and Horses Inn. A very friendly, down-to-earth woman who enjoys socialising with her guests, Mrs. Hall is continually frustrated by the mysterious Griffin’s refusal to talk with her, and his repeated tantrums.
Thoma – I a rvel : Thomas Marvel is a j oily old tramp unwittingly recruited to assist the Invisible Man as his first visible partner. He carries around the Invisible Man’s scientific notebooks for him, and, eventually, a large sum of money that Griffin had stolen.
Col. Adve: Col. Adye is the chief of police in the town of Port Burdock. He is called upon by Dr. Kemp when the Invisible Man turned up in Kemp’s house talking of taking over the world with his “terrible secret” of invisibility. A very able-bodied and reliable officer, Adye not only saves Kemp from the Invisible Man’s first attempt on his life but also spearheads the hunt for the unseen fugitive.
Dr Cuss: Dr. Cuss is a doctor living in the town of Iping. Intrigued by tales of a bandaged stranger staying at the Coach and Horses Inn, Dr. Cuss goes to see him under the pretence of asking for a donation to the nurse’s fund. The strange man, Griffin, scares Cuss away by pinching his nose with his invisible hand.
J. A. Jaffers: J. A. Jaffers is a constable in the town of Iping. He is called upon by Mr. and Mrs. Hall to arrest Griffin after they suspected him of robbing the Reverend Bunting.
The Rev. Mr. Bunting: The Rev. Mr. Bunting is a vicar in the town of Iping.
Griffin: Griffin is a gifted young university medical student with albinism, who studies optical density. He believes he is on the verge of a great scientific discovery. Working reclusively in his flat, he invents a formula to ‘bend light and reduce the refractive index of physical objects, making them invisible. He experiments on himself and makes himself invisible.
Summary of the Novel
The Invisible Man starts with a stranger arriving at the town of Iping. He’s a private guy, which is a problem when you live in a town where the major export is gossip. The stranger doesn’t get along with the villagers, especially the people who own the inn where he’s staying. He spends most of his time trying to do something scientific in his room. But eventually – after the villagers (rightfully) accuse him of robbery – the stranger snaps. He takes off all his clothes and reveals that he’s – wait for it – invisible!
The Invisible Man fights the village and flees, leaving his important scientific notes behind. To get them back, he forces a homeless dude named Marvel to help him. They go back to Iping and get the Invisible Man’s stuff, but the villagers attack and craziness ensues. The Invisible Man beats them to a pulp and wreaks some major havoc.
At another town (Port Stowe), the Invisible Man steals money and drops it into Marvel’s pockets. Like the lousy sidekick he is, Marvel runs away to Burdock, money in hand (or in pocket, we guess). The IM tries to kill Marvel, but a bunch of people at a bar fight him off; one person even
shoots him, but it’s just a scratch. The Invisible Man takes shelter in a house that happens to be owned by an old college friend named Kemp, and this is where we learn that our not-so- hero’s name is Griffin.
While staying in his digs, Griffin tells Kemp his back story, story which is several chapters long. Here’s the gist: he was poor and he wanted to study invisibility (as most young people do), so he stole money from his father, who then committed suicide (we’re not entirely sure why). Finally Griffin figured out the invisibility thing and proceeded to do a few things:
1. burn down his landlord’s building;
2. wander around London;
3. steal from a department store;
4. put on a ridiculous outfit from a theatrical costume shop and go to Iping to work.
Turns out Kemp had alerted the police to Griffin’s whereabouts when he arrived, but when they come to arrest him, he escapes. (Remember, he’s invisible, so it’s not too tough.) Kemp works with the police to catch Griffin, who in turn, tries to catch Kemp. In the end, a bunch of people in Burdock gang up on the Invisible Man and kill him. As he dies, Griffin loses his invisibility and we get our first glimpse of the Visible Man.
Finally, in the epilogue, we learn that Marvel still has Griffin’s scientific notes, which probably have all sorts of cool inventions in them.
The story starts with a stranger arriving in a snowstorm at the Coach and Horses, an inn/bar in Iping. (If you’ve read War of the Worlds, you know that Wells often likes to set his stories in real places, Iping is a real town in England.)
The stranger is totally covered, with only his shiny nose showing. He’s also wearing spectacles with sidelights, which basically look like goggles. At least one person says he looks like he’s wearing a diving helmet (the old-fashioned kind, of course.)
The stranger looks, well, strange, but he’s got money, so Mrs. Hall, the innkeeper, gives him a room.
Still, Mrs. Hall is surprised by his appearance when she sees him in his room without his hat.
His forehead above his blue glasses was covered by a white bandage, and another covered his ears, leaving not a scrap of his face exposed excepting only his pink, peaked nose. The thick black hair, escaping as it could below and between the cross bandages, projected in curious tails and horns, giving him the strangest appearance conceivable.
Luckily, he’s covered the lower part of his face with a serviette (a napkin), so she doesn’t have to deal with what’s there.
Mrs. Hall assumes that this guy was in an accident. She tries to get him to talk about what happened, but he doesn’t want to talk about his “accident” with a gossipy innkeeper.
Instead, he asks her about getting his luggage from the railroad station. Not quite as good for gossip. Sorry, Mrs. Hall.
Teddy Henfrey is a villager and clock mender, which might sound awesome, but it just means that he fixes clocks. Henfrey makes his way to the Coach and Horses Inn that afternoon.
Mrs. Hall wants Henfrey to fix a clock in the stranger’s room. They enter his room without knocking, which is a bad idea whether your guest is a mad scientist or not. For a moment, Mrs. Hall thinks the stranger has a giant mouth, but he covers his face again.
The stranger tells Mrs. Hall that he would like to be left alone. See, he’s an “experimental investigator” – which means scientist – and he’s got some research that could be messed up by people entering whenever they want.
Also, he was in an accident, and his eyes are sensitive, that is why he’s always covered and wearing his dark glasses.
Mrs. Hall leaves Henfrey to fix the clock. Henfrey takes a long time with the clock on purpose, so that he can see more of the stranger. The stranger catches him wasting time, though, and tells him to finish up quickly and get out.
Henfrey wonders what the man’s secret is – maybe he’s wanted by the police? On his way through the village, Henfrey runs into Mr. Hall and tells him, “there’s a weird guy staying at your place.”
This gets Mr. Hall a little suspicious. But he’s also a little drunk (that’s his hobby), so his wife tells him to mind his own business. Although, truth be told, Mrs. Hall is herself a little ” suspicious of the stranger.
The next day, the stranger’s luggage is brought from the station by a man named Fearenside, who has a dog which makes Fearenside our favourite character so far.
The stranger has lots of luggage, including boxes of glass bottles cushioned by straw.
He would probably love to yell at people to be careful with his boxes, but Fearenside’s dog attacks him and rips his glove and trousers.
The stranger runs back to his room to change his clothes.
Mr. Hall, nice guy that he is, checks on the stranger to make sure he wasn’t hurt. But when he enters the room without knocking, he sees something strange. Unfortunately, Mr. Hall gets pushed out of the room before he can figure out what he saw.
The villagers are now hanging around the luggage, gossiping and saying what they would do if a dog bit them. These people clearly don’t have TVs.
When the unhurt stranger gets the boxes, he starts unpacking all of his bottles and gets to work immediately.
Mrs. Hall brings him dinner, but – surprise! – enters without knocking. So, of course, two things happen: firstly she catches a glimpse of something strange (he has very hollow eye sockets, but then he puts on his glasses); and second he complains about being interrupted.
Mrs. Hall fusses over the mess that he’s making, but the stranger just tells her to bill him.
Down at a local bar, Fearenside and Henfrey gossip about the stranger. Fearenside says the stranger has black legs – he apparently saw the leg when his dog ripped his pants. Since the stranger has a pink nose, says Fearenside, maybe he’s colored like a piebald horse.
The narrator tells us that after the dog incident not much happens in Iping until the club festival (which is around the Christian holiday of Whit-Monday). Instead, the village settles into something of a routine.
This is the routine: when Mrs. Hall complains about his messes, the stranger tells her to bill him extra, which works fine until April, when he starts to run out of money.
No one in Iping really likes the stranger and everyone has a theory about why he’s so weird. (How strange is he? He doesn’t go to church on Sundays and he goes for walks at night. Clearly there’s something wrong with this guy. Where are the police when you need them?)
Some people think he’s a criminal or an anarchist or a lunatic or simply a freak who could make a fortune charging people at county fairs to check him out.
Whatever his deal is, everyone seems to agree that the stranger is too irritable for a village, “though his irritability might have been comprehensible to an urban brain-worker”.
One villager who does want to talk to him is the town, doctor Cuss. On Whit Sunday, Cuss goes to talk to the stranger – partly because he’s curious, partly because he’s jealous of all his bottles. After the talk, Cuss runs out to see Bunting, the priest.
Cuss wanted gossip, but this is apparently what happened instead: while the stranger was telling him a story about why his research was taking so long (a scientific formula got burned in a fireplace), the stranger revealed that his sleeve was empty. Then he seemed to use an invisible hand to tweak Cuss’ nose. To be clear, if you’re trying to hide the fact that you’re invisible, tweaking people’s noses with your invisible hand is not a good strategy.
It occurred in the small hours of Whit-Monday, the day devoted in Iping to the Club festivities. Mrs. Bunting woke up suddenly before dawn, hearing the door of their bedroom open and close. She sat up in bed listening. Then she heard the pad, pad, pad of bare feet coming out of the adjoining dressing room and walking along the passage towards the staircase. Now she aroused the Rev. Mr. Bunting as quietly as possible. Without striking a light he went out on the landing to listen. He distinctly heard a fumbling going on at his study desk down-stairs, and then a violent sneeze. Armed with a poker he descended the staircase as noiselessly as possible. Mrs. Bunting came out on the landing. The hour was about four. Everything was still. Then something snapped, the drawer was opened, and there was a rustle of papers. A match was struck and the study was flooded with yellow light. Mr. Bunting was now in the hall, and through the crack of the door he could see the desk and the open drawer and a candle burning on the desk. But there was no robber. They heard the chink of money, and realised that the robber had found the housekeeping reserve of gold-two pounds ten, all in half sovereigns. Gripping the poker firmly, Mr. Bunting rushed into the room. “Surrender!” cried he.
Mrs. Bunting was close at his heels all the while. They stood amazed in the study. There was nobody there to surrender.
“I could have sworn—” cried Mr. Bunting. “The candle!” said he. “Who lit the candle?”
“The drawer!” said Mrs. Bunting. “And the money’s gone!”
There was a violent sneeze in the passage. As they rushed out the kitchen door slammed. “Bring the candle,” called Mr. Bunting, and led the way. They both heard the sound of bolts being hastily shot back. As he opened the kitchen door he saw through the scullery that the back door was just opening. It opened, stood open for a moment, and then closed with a slam. He was certain that nothing went out of the door. They entered the kitchen. The place was empty. There was not a soul to be found in the house, search as they would.
Back at the Coach and Horses inn, the Halls head down to the cellar to water down their beer.
Mr. Hall has to go back upstairs to get some sarsaparilla to cover the taste of the watered-down beer. On his way, he notices some strange things: the front door is unlocked and the stranger isn’t in his room.
The lady of the house, Mrs. Hall, comes to check in on the situation in the stranger’s room.
She peeks in and, after a few sneezes, the blankets and pillows start flying around the room, and the furniture starts banging around.
Mrs. Hall immediately assumes that the stranger has put ghosts into her furniture. (There’s a joke here about “spirits,” which can mean both ghosts and alcohol. Since alcohol goes into bottles, maybe ghosts could also, and maybe that’s what the stranger has in all of his bottles. At least, that seems to be what Mrs. Hall thinks.)
Some of the villagers – including Sandy Wadgers, the blacksmith, and Mr. Huxter, the general shop owner – get involved in the mystery of the stranger’s disappearance and the haunted furniture. With so many people, not much gets done.
Finally, the stranger comes out of his room and demands to be left alone.
The Halls hear rumours about the burglary the night before.
Everyone at the bar is interested in the strange behaviour of the stranger, who strangely stranges the strange. He’s strange and the villagers don’t like him.
He remains in his room, but Mrs. Hall does not bring him any food.
Mrs. Hall and the stranger start arguing about money because he hasn’t paid his bill recently. But he says he found some more money recently and would be happy to pay.
This, of course, makes everyone think that he was behind the burglary at the vicar’s house.
Finally, the stranger gets so fed up that he reveals himself to the people at the bar:
“You don’t understand,” he said, “who I am or what I am. I’ll show you. By Heaven! I’ll show you.” Then he put his open palm over his face and withdrew it. The centre of his face became a black cavity.
The people in the bar are terrified and run away.
The village people freak out, naturally. They were prepared for scars and ugliness, but what on earth is this?
All the villagers who aren’t in the Coach and Horses come running in to see what all the screaming is about. There are a bunch of people out in the town, since this is a festival day (Whit Monday).
Eventually, Constable Jaffers comes to arrest the stranger. But when he (and some other brave people) go to the inn, they find a headless figure eating some bread and cheese.
The stranger explains that he’s the invisible man. This isn’t much of an explanation, but it’s the first time “invisible man” has been used in the text. So from now on, that’s what we’ll call him.
The stranger – the invisible man – fights with the crowd and seems to be losing. Finally, he says he’ll surrender, but instead, he just takes off all his clothes. Of course, this makes him totally invisible and he starts winning the fight like whoa.
The invisible man starts to beat down on crowd and they all panic. Constable Jaffers falls pretty hard on his head, and it’s not clear whether he’s dead or just unconscious.
Gibbons, the amateur naturalist of the district, was lying out on the spacious open downs without a soul within a couple of miles of him. Almost dozing, he heard the sound of a man coughing, sneezing, and then swearing. Gibbons looked up, but saw no one at all. The voice continued to swear in the rich vocabulary of a cultivated man. It grew to a climax, diminished gradually, and died away in the distance, going in the direction of Adderdean. It finally ended with a chocked sneeze. Gibbons had heard nothing of the morning’s occurrences at Iping. Disturbed by the strange occurrence he got up hastily and hurried down the hill towards the village.
Mr. Marvel is a tramp – a homeless, jobless guy who wanders around. Marvel wears a shabby high hat, and we first meet him considering two pairs of boots, both probably given to him as charity.
As he ponders the boots, Marvel hears a voice, but he can’t see who’s talking. So, of course, he wonders if he’s drunk or crazy.
To prove that he’s real and just invisible, the voice starts throwing rocks at Marvel.
When Marvel is finally convinced that there might actually be someone there, he is able to make out some bread and cheese in front of him.
The Invisible Man explains that he needs Marvel’s help. He knows Marvel is also an outcast, plus he promises to reward the homeless man for helping him. He explains, “An invisible man is a man of power.” Then he sneezes violently.
At first, the village people of Iping panicked after the invisible man showed himself, or, uh, didn’t show himself.
But after a while, people relaxed and went back to the festival. As the narrator notes, “Great and strange ideas transcending experience often have less effect upon men and women than smaller, more tangible considerations”.
Soon, though, another stranger comes to Iping. Stranger to the villagers, at least: we can recognise him as Marvel thanks to his shabby high hat. This new guy acts suspiciously around the Coach and Horses.
For instance, Huxter, the shop owner, sees this guy waiting outside a window of the inn, holding a bag. A bag! Well, this town hasn’t had a great track record with strangers recently.
So, Huxter runs after the guy, yelling “Thief!” But, before he can catch the man, something trips Huxter and knocks him out.
Doctor Cuss and the vicar Mr. Bunting are going through the invisible man’s papers, including his diaries. But they can’t understand the diaries and, honestly, they’re not even sure that they’re written in English.
Marvel lets the Invisible Man into the room with Cuss and Bunting. They obviously don’t see the invisible man, but they ask Marvel to leave.
Once he does, Cuss and Bunting lock the door so that no one will interrupt them. Unfortunately for them, this also means that no one will interrupt the Invisible Man when he starts to beat the living daylights out of them.
The invisible man wants to know where his stuff is, including his clothes. He threatens to kill the two men.
From the bar, Teddy Henfrey and Mr. Hall hear some weird goings-on in the room where the invisible man was staying.
They start to investigate, but Mrs. Hall interrupts them, thinking that Mr. Hall and Henfrey are just spying on Cuss and Bunting for fun. And as we know, that’s her job.
At that moment, Huxter yells out about a thief and goes running off after the man in the shabby high hat.
The people in the inn come out to see what Huxter is yelling about. They see Marvel running off and (for some reason) think that he’s the invisible man . They all go running after Marvel, but just like Huxter, they all get tripped. Kind of a hilarious image if you ask us.
At this point, Cuss comes out of the stranger’s room in the inn, revealing that the invisible man stole his and Bunting’s clothes. Bunting is actually trying to cover himself in a newspaper, which a hilarious little detail that we love to picture.
Once again, the invisible man starts beating people up and breaking things: “his temper, at no time very good, seems to have gone completely at some chance blow, and forthwith he set to smiting and overthrowing, for the mere satisfaction of hurting”. Everyone else, including Marvel, runs away.
Naturally, the invisible man breaks every window at the inn, cuts the telegraph cable, and does some other damage just for fun.
Next time we see them, the invisible man is threatening Marvel. Apparently, Marvel tried to run away (though he claims he didn’t). That would not have been cool, since Marvel is carrying all of the invisible man’s stuff, including his research notes.
The invisible man is also upset that the news of all this hub-bub will be in the paper. It’s too bad he didn’t think of that when he was beating the heck out of people.
Even though Marvel points out that he’s a bad sidekick, the invisible man won’t let him leave.
Marvel makes excuses like he is weak, he could make mess of his plans, he wants to die, etc. but all in vain.
This has no effect on the invisible man. The invisible man threatens him to do as is told and not to make excuses for resignation.
The next day, in Port Stowe, Marvel nervously waits on a bench, and ends up chatting with an elderly mariner (that is, a sailor).
The sailor thinks he hears coins jingling in Marvel’s pockets, though Marvel is clearly a money less tramp.
The old man tells Marvel all about this amazing Invisible Man that he read about in the newspaper. This isn’t some crazy hoax from America, but a story about something going on in England.
The sailor thinks the story is believable because it comes equipped with names and details.
He also thinks that an invisible man would make a great thief since no one could see or stop him.
Marvel takes the opportunity to prove that he’s kind of a dud: right before he tells the sailor that he knows the invisible man, he looks around. Does he expect to see the invisible man?
In any case, the invisible man is there and starts hurting Marvel secretly.
Marvel quickly covers his tracks, saying that the invisible man is just a hoax. Then he gets out of there quickly (or maybe he’s pulled by the invisible man).
The sailor is annoyed at Marvel for letting him go on about this invisible man. But later, the sailor hears stories about a bunch of robberies and how people saw money just floating away.
After that, he realises what had gone down on the bench in Port Stowe, and just how close he had been to the invisible man.
Dr. Kemp is in his study overlooking the town of Burdock. Kemp’s study is full of science stuff, which explains why he’s looking out the window: who wants to look at all that science stuff?
So, looking out of his window, Kemp sees a man with a shabby high hat running down into town. Kemp thinks this might just be another fool who is afraid of the invisible man. Kemp, of course, is too scientific to believe in an invisible man.
But outside, the running man looks terrified. Everyone around freaks out, and for good reason: the invisible man is chasing after the running man.
In the town of Burdock, at a pub called The Jolly Cricketers, a bunch of people are chatting.
Suddenly, Marvel bursts into the pub, yelling for people to save him from the invisible man. The invisible man is definitely there, because someone is breaking windows (the invisible man’s favorite pastime.) The bartender hides Marvel in a backroom and an American with a gun gets ready to shoot the invisible man when he comes in the front door.
The invisible man, suddenly sneaky, goes in through the back door. He begins to attack Marvel, but the other men in the pub rescue him in time.
The guy with the gun fires it carefully and is sure he hits the invisible man. He tells everyone to go feel for his invisible body.
Back at Kemp’s house, Kemp is busying himself with some works of speculative philosophy.
Kemp gets interrupted by the shots and looks out to see a crowd at the Jolly Cricketers. Shortly after, he’s interrupted again when someone rings his doorbell. But his housemaid tells him that there was no one at the door.
On his way to bed, after a long day of speculative philosophy, Kemp notices some blood on the floor and on the handle of his bedroom door. When he opens the bedroom door, he sees some floating, bloody bandages, which makes him feel “eerie”.
The invisible man calls Kemp by his name and tells him not to panic. Of course, when an invisible man tells someone not to panic, that person panics.
So the invisible man wrestles Kemp down (which, in our experience, usually doesn’t help stop people from panicking). The invisible man tells Kemp that he knows him from school: he’s really a guy named Griffin. He then gives us a little more 4-1-1: he’s almost an albino, he’s a little younger than Kemp, and he won a medal for chemistry at University College.
Kemp calms down enough to give Griffin some whiskey, clothes, and a cigar. Griffin takes a glass of whiskey, which looks like it’s just suspended in mid-air. Then he puts on clothes, which look like they’re floating. And finally, he smokes a cigar, so the smoke outlines his mouth and throat.
It was just a coincidence that Griffin broke into Kemp’s house to recover, but now he needs Kemp’s help. Luckily, the bullet that got him just scratched his wrist, so he’s not going to die. Griffin needs help because his partner stole his (stolen) money.
He tells Kemp that he’s too tired to tell the full story now and he needs to sleep. He also adds that he doesn’t want people to capture him, which we’d say is an odd request for a guest. But that’s the kind of guy Griffin is: strange.
After Griffin makes sure the bedroom is secure and after Kemp promises not to turn him in, Griffin goes to sleep.
Kemp can’t sleep right now. For one thing, he’s worried briefly about his sanity (was that really an invisible Griffin?). For another thing, Griffin took his bedroom.
Instead, Kemp spends some time reading the newspapers from that day. The top news story is about a dangerous invisible man. Kemp wonders why Griffin was chasing that tramp. That didn’t look like innocent fun.
Kemp worries that Griffin may become more unstable and dangerous. He hesitates, but eventually decides to write a note to Colonel Adye.
Then he hears Griffin wake up. As usual, Griffin starts his day off with, an evil temper by tossing some furniture around. Kemp hurried upstairs and knocks eagerly.
Actually, Griffin threw some stuff around because he’s just kind of an angry guy, as Kemp notes.
Kemp tells Griffin that he wants to help, but first, he needs to know his story. So strap yourself in for Griffin’s story.
Griffin was a medical student at the same time as Kemp, but Griffin switched to physics because he was interested in light. He came up with a loose theory for how to make objects invisible, but needed to figure out a method to actually do it.
(There’s some pretty hilarious dialogue here, too. After Griffin gives a long comment on reflection, refraction, and absorption of light, Kemp remarks: “that is pretty plain sailing”. If it’s not plain sailing for you, you can always read up a little more on the concepts.)
Griffin left London (and University College) six years ago and went to Chesilstowe, where he was a teacher and a student. What he really wanted to do, though, was to continue his research into invisibility.
Still – and this is his big problem – his professor (Oliver) was “a scientific bounder, a journalist by instinct, a thief of ideas—he was always prying!”. Griffin didn’t want to publish his research because then Oliver would get a lot of credit for it.
Griffin had done all this work himself. As he notes, “In all my great moments I have been alone”.
One night, alone, Griffin figured out how to make a human invisible. Pretty soon he was thinking about making himself invisible, since it would get him out of his life as “a shabby, poverty-struck, hemmed-in demonstrator, teaching fools in a provincial college”. Harsh!
After three years of teaching and research, he didn’t have the money he needed to complete his research. So, he did the obvious thing i.e. he robbed his dad.
Unfortunately, the money he stole was not actually his dad’s, and so his dad shot himself.
Back at Kemp’s house, Kemp offers his chair to Griffin, mostly to get Griffin away from the window.
Griffin continues his story: after his dad died, he moved into a cheap boardinghouse in London to continue his research.
He did go to his dad’s funeral (which is awfully nice of him), but he didn’t really feel sorry for him. You may gather this if you’re a very careful reader and read the following sentence: “I did not feel a bit sorry for my father”.
In fact, except for his research, the whole world seemed distant and unimportant to Griffin.
His research, Griffin adds, is all written down in a code in his books, except for a few parts that he chose to remember himself. Just in case the code wasn’t enough.
Back at the boardinghouse, Griffin continued his experiments. He made some wool invisible and then he made a neighbourhood cat invisible. That cat experiment took a few tries, and the cat didn’t seem to like it so much.
Unfortunately for Griffin, the cat’s noise attracted an old woman who lived in the boardinghouse and who had always suspected Griffin of vivisecting animals. (Around this time, England was making some anti-vivisection laws. Check out The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896), for the story of a scientist who is doing research on animals.) Eventually, though, Griffin got annoyed by the cat and let it out.
Then, as usually happens when one gives away his only friend, Griffin had a little breakdown. He started to have nightmares and was no longer interested in his work. But he took some strychnine (a drug) and felt energised. He is really a terrible role model.
At one point, the old woman and the landlord came up to make sure that Griffin wasn’t experimenting on animals. They got into a little bit of a fight, which ended with Griffin pushing the landlord out of his room.
Realising that this would lead to trouble, Griffin decided to disappear.
He sent his books off by mail to some places where he could pick them up. Then he started the process of turning himself invisible, which really hurt. (It almost makes him feel bad for that cat that he experimented on.) During the process, the landlord tried to give Griffin an eviction notice, but Griffin already looked so strange that the landlord ran away.
At some point, Griffin became almost totally invisible, except that “an attenuated pigment still remained behind the retina of my eyes, fainter than mist”.
The landlord and his stepsons tried to break in, which angered Griffin so much that he planned to bum down the house. But he couldn’t find any matches. Dam.
When the landlord and company finally broke down the door, they couldn’t find Griffin. Turns out he was hiding outside the window, “quivering with anger”.
Griffin destroyed his equipment, found some matches, and set his room on fire because “it was the only way to cover my trail—and no doubt it was insured”.
Now that he was invisible, he started thinking about “the wild and wonderful” things he could do as an Invisible Man. Shmoop has some ideas, too, but we’ll let you use your imagination.
Griffin continues his story:
While he was still pretty excited to be invisible, he realised that invisibility had some drawbacks. For one thing, he couldn’t see his feet, which made walking down stairs a little strange.
The fact that people couldn’t see him had advantages and disadvantages.
Advantage: he got to pretend that a man’s bucket was crazy.
Disadvantage: a man running to catch the bucket jammed his fingers into Griffin’s neck.
Also, Griffin was always cold and started to get the sniffles. Oh, and a dog could totally find him.
Wandering around London, Griffin came across a Salvation Army march, which drew a crowd. Crowd are dangerous to Griffin, since he can’t slip through them – people can feel him even if they don’t see him.
He tried to get out of the way, but he had stepped in some mud and left muddy footprints. Some street urchins started to follow him, which is never good.
Then it started to snow and Griffin got tired of his adventure. Of course, he couldn’t go home since he had set his apartment on fire (he probably should have thought of that before).
Back in Kemp’s study, listening to this story, Kemp looks out the window. What is he looking for? What does he see? Kemp asks Griffin to go on.
Griffin continues his story. This is one invisible man who needs to get some stuff off his chest, apparently.
With a January snowstorm blowing in to London, Griffin needed to find a place to stay. He couldn’t get into a house, so he decided to do the next best thing: go shopping.
Seriously, he went to a giant department store named Omniums. (Omniums isn’t a real place, but there were department stores in England in the 1890s, though they were pretty new.)
Griffin waited until the place closed, then he started searching around for things he could use. He stole some food and clothes. Over by toys, he saw some fake noses, which started him thinking about wigs and other costume stuff that could help him pretend to be normal. Like Halloween all year.
He slept in the department store, living out every child’s dream. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as fun as you’d think: he had nightmares about being forced into his father’s grave and buried because no one could see him.
Griffin woke up when the workers came back the next morning, and he almost got caught. The workers chased him around the store (they could see him because he was wearing clothes); but once again, Griffin took off his clothes to become invisible.
Since he couldn’t steal clothes, Griffin had to leave the store with nothing – the sort of sad experience we all can empathise with.
Griffin continues his story. Oh, when will it end?
Griffin was getting more and more upset about the whole invisible situation.
He made his way to a costume shop to find wigs, noses, and other stuff, so that he might appear “a grotesque but still a credible figure”.
When Griffin found his way to a store, the very alert shop owner almost caught him. The shop owner had a revolver, and he kept locking doors behind him.
This made Griffin angry, which seems to be his only emotion. So, he knocked out the shop owner and tied him up. (And that’s the last we hear of that guy. Kind of sad for him.)
Kemp interrupts Griffin’s story to tell him that he isn’t following “the common conventions of humanity” when he knocks people out in their own homes. Griffin points out, though, that he’s not a common person.
Back to the story: Griffin went ahead and stole money and clothes. At least now people will be able to see him.
Griffin stops his story for a minute in order to give Kemp a long speech about how being invisible isn’t so great. For one thing, he can’t eat in public because he can’t reveal his mouth. (This explains why he never ate in front of people at the Coach and Horses in the earlier chapters.)
Kemp wants to keep him talking, so he asks what happened after he got all dressed up.
Griffin continues his story:
He got his books and ordered the equipment he would need. All he wanted was to figure out how to reverse the invisibility treatment. Unfortunately, those gossipy people of Iping interfered with this plan. He asks, “Why couldn’t they leave me alone?”
Now that everyone has gotten in his way – especially Marvel – Griffin is even angrier than before and plans on killing people. We would be worried about that, but when was the last time one of Griffin’s plans went well?
Kemp sees some people coming up the hill to his house, so he tries to keep Griffin talking.
Griffin says he had planned to go someplace warm, like South America, where he wouldn’t have to wear clothes (at least not during spring break).
But since he met Kemp, he’s changed his plans. Griffin now realises how little one person can do on his own.
Invisibility is especially useful for killing people, so Griffin plans to establish a new Reign of Terror – with Kemp’s help, of course.
First, though, he needs to get his books back from Marvel, who is locked up at the jail for his own safety.
Suddenly, Griffin hears some people sneaking up in the house, and he realises that Kemp has betrayed him.
Sad and angry, Griffin takes off his clothes.
Kemp tries to capture Griffin with the help of the three men, including Colonel Adye, the police captain who got Kemp’s letter.
Griffin pushes past them with as much violence as he can and escapes.
Kemp explains to Adye that they have to take measures against Griffin because he’s insane, a person of “pure selfishness”.
They have some advantages, though. For one thing, they know that Griffin wants to get to Marvel and his stolen books.
Also, Griffin basically told Kemp his life story, so they have all that information. Kemp knows that they can keep him unstable by making sure he doesn’t get a moment to eat or sleep. And of course, he knows that they can use dogs against Griffin.
Kemp even suggests that they put powdered glass on the roads, but Adye objects that” it’s unsportsmanlike”. At least someone’s worried about that.
Kemp counters that Griffin is inhuman, that “he has cut himself off from his kind. His blood be upon his own head”.
The police swung into action. By two o’clock every passenger train travelled with locked doors, and goods traffic was suspended. Twenty miles around Port Burdock, men in groups of three or four armed with guns and accompanied by dogs were beating the roads and fields. Mounted policemen rode along the country lanes, stopping at every cottage and warning the people to lock up their houses and keep indoors. A proclamation signed by Adye was posted over the whole district by four or five o’clock in the afternoon. Before nightfall an area of several hundred square miles was in a state of siege.
There were still people who had not heard of the invisible man. Mr. Wicksteed was brutally murdered within two hundred yards from Lord Burdock’s Lodge gate. Mr. Wicksteed was an amiable man of forty-five or forty-six and steward to Lord Burdock. He lay crushed on the edge of a gravel pit. The weapon used was an iron rod pulled up from a broken fence. Mr. Wicksteed was on his way home for his mid-day meal. A schoolgirl reported seeing him walking towards the gravel pit, away from his direct path home, bent forward and striking repeatedly at something in front of him with his walking stick. An iron rod moving around by itself seems to have aroused his curiosity and led to the tragedy.
In spite of all the vigil, the invisible man seems to have eaten and rested that night. He was
back in action with renewed vigour the next day.
In the worst letter ever, Griffin tells Kemp that he is taking charge: “Port Burdock is no longer under the Queen, tell your Colonel of Police, and the rest of them; it is under me—the Terror! This is day one of year one of the new epoch—the Epoch of the invisible man. I am invisible man the First” .
The letter also says that Griffin will kill Kemp that day.
What’s even better is that Griffin sent that letter without a stamp, so Kemp had to pay for it upon delivery. As we said, worst letter ever.
Kemp has his housekeeper lock up all the windows and gets his revolver ready. He writes a note for Adye, saying that Kemp will act as bait to catch Griffin.
Adye hows up later, saying that Griffin grabbed the note from Kemp’s servant. So now Griffin knows that Kemp wants to set a trap.
Then Griffin does what he does best: he breaks some windows. But there’s no way for him to get into Kemp’s house because they’ve anticipated his arrival. This is the siege of Kemp’s house. Adye borrows Kemp’s gun and tries to go for help, but Griffin trips him up and grabs the gun. At first, Adye refuses to help Griffin, but he changes his mind when he realises “that life was very sweet”.
The narrator switches point-of-view here, and goes from Adye to Kemp, who is watching all this from an upstairs window. Suddenly, he sees Adye attack Griffin and get shot. It sure looks like Adye is dead, but we’re not sure.
Kemp’s housemaid is coming up the hill with two policemen. At the same time, Griffin has found an axe and is using it to break through the shutters over a window.
Luckily for Kemp, the police get there in time, and he gives them some fireplace pokers to use as clubs. So it’s pokers vs. axe-and-revolver, though Griffin isn’t a great shot.
Griffin knocks out one of the cops, but the other cop hurts Griffin (by aiming near the axe). There’s a snapping sound, so may be his arm gets broken. Griffin drops his weapons and runs away. But when the cops look around, they find that Kemp and his housemaid have also run away. That probably doesn’t make them feel too great about the guy they just saved.
Before now, Kemp’s neighbour, Heelas, didn’t believe in the invisible man. But when he wakes up from a nap and sees Kemp’s house broken into and Kemp running toward him, Heelas does the only sensible thing: he locks himself inside his house and refuses to help his neighbour.
From Heelas’s point-of-view, we see Kemp run through the garden followed closely by the invisible man.
Kemp continues running towards Burdock. It sounds something like a nightmare: the road is long and empty, and no one in the nearby houses will help him.
Still, when Kemp arrives in Burdock, he finds a couple of workmen (navvies) on the road. When he yells about the invisible man, everyone nearby tries to find and hit the invisible man with
shovels and all.
When the invisible man grabs Kemp, the navvies knock the Invisible Man down. So, maybe these guys are the real heroes of the book?
The narrator notes that the next scene might have looked like a game of rugby, but it was actually a big fight between the crowd and the invisible man.
Spoiler alert: the invisible man loses. “There was, I am afraid, some savage kicking. Then suddenly a wild scream of ‘Mercy! Mercy!’ that died down swiftly to a sound like choking”.
Kemp tries to get people off of Griffin, but the invisible man is already not breathing and possibly dead.
Everyone crowds around to see what happened, and slowly, the invisible man starts to become visible (but still naked):
And so, slowly, beginning at his hands and feet and creeping along his limbs to the vital centres of his body, that strange change continued. It was like the slow spreading of a poison. First came the little white nerves, a hazy grey sketch of a limb, then the glassy bones and intricate arteries, then the flesh and skin, first a faint fogginess, and then growing rapidly dense and opaque. Presently, they could see his crushed chest and his shoulders, and the dim outline of his drawn and battered features. Cool, and horrible, That’s how Griffin’s experiment in invisibility ends, with people covering up his “naked and pitiful” body.