The Invisible Man

The Invisible Man Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on H.G. Wells's The Invisible Man. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of H.G. Wells

H.G. Wells was born in Kent, England, to a shopkeeper/professional cricketer and former domestic servant. Wells’ family were not wealthy, with an unstable income. When Wells was a child he broke his leg, and while resting he read an enormous about of books, which inspired him to become a writer. As a teenager, Wells became an apprentice to a draper in order to help support his family financially. Later he became a teacher, before studying biology at university, where he was a member of the Debating Society. He eventually earned a bachelor’s degree in Zoology. A short time after this he published his first novel, The Time Machine, in 1895. He published a number of other works in quick succession after, including The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Invisible Man, and The War of the Worlds. One of the most important figures in early science fiction, Wells accurately predicted many of the technological developments that came to occur in the 20th and 21st centuries, as well as major world events such as World War II. He suffered from diabetes, and in 1946 died of unknown causes, possibly a heart attack, at home in London.
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Historical Context of The Invisible Man

During the Age of the Enlightenment in the 18th century, scientific advancements flourished, changing people’s attitude to religion and laying the groundwork for the beginnings of a newly secular era. Ideas about God, the universe, and humanity changed at a rapid pace. In the 19th century, major events in the history of science such as the publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859), which introduced Darwin’s theory of evolution, accelerated this move toward secularism. As well as scientific developments, The Invisible Man is also, in a less overt manner, related to political authoritarianism, and especially the origins of fascism. In the early 20th century, several fascist movements rose to prominence and power, aiming to give absolute authority to a subgroup of people thought to be superior through violent means. This ideology is reflected in Griffin’s plan to carry out a “Reign of Terror” in order to institute “the Epoch of the Invisible Man.”

Other Books Related to The Invisible Man

Other significant works of early science fiction include Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818), which like The Invisible Man also portrays a scientific experiment that gets out of control, Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870), and Wells’ other novels The Time Machine (1895), The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896), and The War of the Worlds (1897). The question of moral philosophy at the heart of The Invisible Man—whether it is acceptable to commit wrong if one could escape consequences through invisibility (or some other means)—is also explored in Plato’s Republic (380 BC), in the legend of the Ring of Gyges. Like The Invisible Man, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890) explores questions of anonymity, immorality, and accountability through telling the story of a man who retains his youthful good looks forever while a painting of him reflects the ugly reality of his wicked soul.
Key Facts about The Invisible Man
  • Full Title: The Invisible Man: A Grotesque Romance
  • When Written: 1897
  • Where Written: Worcester Park, Southwest London, England
  • When Published: 1897
  • Literary Period: Late Victorian Era
  • Genre: Early science fiction/horror
  • Setting: Iping and Port Burdock, Sussex, England
  • Climax: The final fight between Griffin, Colonel Adye, and Doctor Kemp, which ends in Griffin being beaten to death by a mob
  • Antagonist: Griffin (The Invisible Man)
  • Point of View: Third person limited narrator

Extra Credit for The Invisible Man

Adaptation after Adaptation. The Invisible Man has been adapted as a movie many times, including as a 1933 science fiction horror film, a 1984 Soviet film, and a six-part BBC adaptation.

Mixed Reception. Some critics dismiss The Invisible Man as being too comic and silly compared to Wells’ other work from this era, while others stress that the novel is an important work vital to the development of the science fiction genre.