Monday, January 9, 2012
The Invisible Man: Review
The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells is another one of those classic stories that "everyone" knows. There have been countless adaptations in film and I even participated in an abridged play version of it in grade school. (We actually used marionettes.) There weren't exactly oodles of female parts in the play...so I got to be Dr. Kemp. Quite simply it is the story of Griffin, a brilliant scientist who happens to discover the secret of invisibility. After trying it out on inanimate objects (a piece of wool and a pillow), he then uses it on a white cat....and finally on himself. He thinks that it will make him powerful and allow him to do all sorts of things undetected. But, of course, there are aspects of invisibility that hadn't occurred to him and he soon finds himself in difficulties.
At its heart, The Invisible Man is about power--and what uses and misuses man makes of it. Griffin becomes more and more selfish, only thinking of his needs and his gains. It soon becomes apparent that either the process has driven him mad or his lust for power has done the job. By the end of the story, we all know that he would quite willingly sacrifice anyone provided he might get what he wants. It is interesting to follow Griffin's slide into madness and see how far he will go. It is also a bit alarming to think that perhaps any us might do the same given the proper incentive--there is that adage that "every man has his price." Perhaps every man also has his power trip--the one that might send him over the edge. Let's hope not.
The story is often credited as one of the earliest science fiction stories, but Wells preferred to think of it as a "scientific romance" (romance using the older meaning of embellished story rather than dwelling on a love story). He would point out the differences between this story and those of Jules Verne, his contemporary. Verne regularly speculated with science that might exist, although it did not yet exist in his time. Wells used what he called "scientific patter"--making a theory of invisibility sound good, but with no solid basis in scientific fact. Fortunately both produce stories well worth reading. Four (invisible) stars for the Invisible Man.