Into my Bookshelf: The Invisible Man

Welcome back to my bookshelf!

As far as classic monster tales, H. G. Wells’s The Invisible Man is easily my favorite, and surprisingly under-read. Griffin is up there with Dracula and Frankenstein (I vastly prefer him to Frankenstein), but in spite of the incredible number of reimaginings of the story through time, if people have read any Wells, it’s usually not this one.

One thing I can figure is that Griffin has a little bit of Dr. Jekyll in him. Because the story of Dr. Jekyll is so well-known, perhaps The Invisible Man has fallen by the wayside a bit. A man taken over by his experiments?

On the other hand, Dr. Jekyll is not a sympathetic character, but inherent in the type of experiments he does, he’s not a bad one, either. We come to think of Dr. Jekyll as “good,” regardless of what he was before he split himself, and it’s the bad part of him that takes over. Because we call it by a different name, it’s easy to pity Dr. Jekyll.

Griffin, the scientist so obsessed with optics that he discovers a way to turn tissue invisible, and does it to himself, isn’t a terribly sympathetic character. He’s ambitious, brilliant, and throughout the book he becomes a bit power-mad and megalomaniac. Which is fine, for a monster, but anything good about him is buried by the mania brought on with the possibilities of his new condition. He wants to enact a Reign of Terror, killing and pillaging. The usual.

And because we still think of him as the same person, because he’s not split himself in two, we don’t have sympathy for Griffin. Yes, it’s not easy being invisible, but killing for fun?

Really, though, Griffin is very much the same as Dr. Jekyll. The condition he puts himself in brings out the worst in him. Power corrupting, after all. His invisibility, like Dr. Jekyll’s experiment, unleashes the darkest parts of him, frees him to act on his base impulses. If we can pity Jekyll, we ought to be able to pity Griffin.

To be honest, I’m not certain we should pity either one.

At the end of the book (not all versions, but in the book), the tramp, Marvel, that he works with in the first part of the story, has all of Griffin’s notes, but he’s incapable of understanding them. This is a beautiful touch, like all the best horror stories. The truth, the formula, is still out there, waiting for someone intelligent enough to stumble across it and unleash the horror of the Invisible Man all over again.

It doesn’t sound spooky, perhaps, but after reading Griffin’s spiral into madness, it’s sufficiently spooky, especially if read in dim light, as all horror stories ought to be read.

Cheers!

C

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About jillianavaloncolumbiatheatre

Recent college graduate, writer, aspiring teacher, lover of literature and art.

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