My third HG Well’s novel read and I’ve started to notice that he often has a main character on the run from something: mustering violence to protect against innumerable or unfathomable enemies, facing starvation through the quaint English countryside, and then having to make use of reason to make sense of the extremely improbable. Humorously, most of the sub-characters aren’t on the run as such, but are so highly panicked and foolish that it makes the heroic main characters look calm and collected by comparison. The sub-characters engage in gossip, wild speculation, and this drives their collective fury to such a level as to make all hell break loose on the roads. It doesn’t require a close examination to deduce that when reading HG Well’s novels, we are reading about a fragile society that is faced with what to them is an impossible occurrence: an invisible man!
Did this make me sympathise with the glut of people? Not really, for their (at first) baseless rumours convinced me that they did not need an invisible man to “appear” to startle them and provoke them into collective insanity. When the invisible man is “revealed” to them, the level of panic and outrage is turned up a notch, perhaps understandably, but it was difficult for most to see reason or think how there could be an invisible man; most were not enquiring minds. Kemp, introduced quite late in the novel, has an enquiring mind and scientific background. An educated man, if you will. Kemp sees those running away from an “invisible man” down the hill outside his window as classic fools, in the absence of evidence.
As for the invisible man himself, during the early few chapters I sympathised with him greatly, wrapped up as he was in bandages to conceal his affliction. He only wanted privacy from questions, but his odd garments and need to seclude himself naturally led to idle gossip and then break in’s and direct questions. It was easy to forgive the invisible man’s cruelty at this stage. The reader soon sees how infuriating it really is to be invisible in the 19th century: good for the element of surprise and disappearing but not ideal for survival in human towns and villages.
The Invisible Man is an intriguing tale, wound well with originality stemming from its main concept. Everywhere he went, he caused trouble and alarm. Though there was a touch too much background into how the invisible man arrived where he did, we got to learn how he made himself invisible and of his tribulations before the commencement of the novel. It was as much about how flawed Griffin (the invisible man) was; how his strengths made him a terror and how his weaknesses escalated the hunt against him; as about the novelty of being invisible. This is a stunning novel, with writing that flows so well it seems to swim pleasantly in the mind. Highly recommended!