Monday, July 7, 2008

H. G. Well done

Book • THE INVISIBLE MAN • H. G. Wells • 1897
The copy I have is from 1970, and it’s in pretty bad shape. It almost feels like a crime opening it, but I had to read this again. One of my favorite themes is invisibility. That brings me to the term invisible. I’m wondering if the title meant the same to a reader from 1897 as it does to today’s reader. To us The Invisible Man is obviously about a man who is there, but cannot be seen. It’s very likely that H. G. Wells was teasing the reader with the idea that the story was about a man who was not seen in public situations. Griffin was a man who kept to himself, and wanted to remain “invisible.”
Several chapters go by before Wells reveals the nature of Griffin’s secret. Even then, we are only exposed to hints, and it is left to us to decide what his words actually mean. At some point it becomes expected that you must have figured it out. At that point the invisible man is already on the road to insanity. For the modern reader, we all know the basic story, so the fact that he is more than transparent is clear before we crack the binding.
H. G. Wells does an amazing job bringing us into the mind of an obsessed man with a single goal. He’s reached his goal, but now sees that with the wish of being invisible comes restrictions that go beyond what he expected. Griffin is confused, betrayed and frustrated. The Invisible Man is a terribly sad story. I’m not sure if you are supposed to feel sorry for the man, but I certainly did. It’s an easy read that apparently was first published as a serial in a periodical before being collected as a novel.
If you haven’t read it yet you better get to it. It’s a must read no matter what kind of book you like. See for yourself!

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