The Invisible Man

by

H. G. Wells

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The Invisible Man: Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Doctor Kemp is writing in his study when he hears the shots being fired. He wonders what the “asses” in Burdock are doing now, and looks outside to see commotion by the Jolly Cricketers. An hour later, his front doorbell rings. He asks the servant who it was, and she replies it was just a “runaway ring.” Doctor Kemp absorbs himself in work again, and doesn’t leave his office until 2 am. He goes to get a glass of whisky before bed, and on the way notices a dark spot on the floor near the bottom of the stairs. Inspecting it, he realizes it is dried blood. He then goes to his bedroom and finds the door handle blood-stained, as well as other spots of blood around the place.
It is likely obvious to readers that the doorbell was not indeed a “runaway ring,” but was in fact Griffin slipping into the house unnoticed. Yet because Doctor Kemp is a proudly rational, unsuperstitious man, he is slow to believe that anything unusual has occurred—even after spotting the dried blood. This emphasizes that too much skepticism can in fact be dangerous.
Themes
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Doctor Kemp hears a voice saying his name, but dismisses it because he is “no believer in Voices.” However, there is still a part of him that has “superstitious inklings.” Suddenly he sees a bloody rag hanging in mid-air, which makes him jump. A voice speaks to him again and announces itself as “an Invisible Man.” Kemp is sure that this is only foolishness or a “trick.” However, he then feels Griffin’s hand close around his shoulder. Griffin holds tight and demands that Kemp be still, threatening him if he moves.
Most other characters immediately believe that Griffin is invisible after he announces himself as such. However, as a scientist Kemp is certain that it is more likely he is being tricked than that Griffin is really invisible. The irony of this, of course, is that it was a scientific experiment that rendered Griffin invisible in the first place.
Themes
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Related Quotes
Griffin explains that he really is an Invisible Man and that he doesn’t want to hurt Kemp, but that if Kemp behaves like a “frantic rustic” then he will have no choice. He introduces himself as Griffin, reminding Kemp that they met at University College London. He describes himself as younger than Kemp, tall, and “almost an albino,” with a pink and white face and red eyes. Kemp is confused, calling the situation “horrible” and accusing Griffin of “devilry.” Griffin agrees that it is horrible, and tells Kemp that he is injured and needs help.
The fact that Griffin may have albinism adds a new element to his story. Even before he was invisible, Griffin had an unusual appearance, which may have made him feel like an outsider and led him to crave the anonymity that comes with invisibility. Perhaps Griffin’s desire to isolate himself emerges from trauma of being made to feel different because of his looks.
Themes
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Griffin demands some whisky, saying he is “near dead.” Kemp gives Griffin the glass and insists that he must be hypnotized. Griffin dismisses Kemp’s confusion and demands food. He borrows one of Kemp’s dressing gowns, and then asks for socks, slippers, and food. Kemp obliges, adding that “this is the insanest thing I ever was in.” Kemp brings some meat, which Griffin eats without cutlery, making it look as if the food is being mashed up by the air. Griffin eats greedily, saying that happening upon Kemp’s house was the first piece of good luck he has had.
Even after being reunited with an old friend who he hopes will turn into an ally, Griffin continues to act in a rude, greedy, and entitled manner. This is literalized by his consumption of food and drink, which Kemp can see being chewed and digested. This image suggests that Griffin’s greed is so extreme that it even surpasses his invisibility.
Themes
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Griffin explains that Marvel tried to steal his money. When Kemp tries to ask him more questions, Griffin protests that he wants to eat without having to tell stories. After his food, Griffin demands a cigar, which he smokes with the same greedy enthusiasm. Griffin repeats that he needs Kemp’s help, and observes that Kemp has stayed the same over the years; he remains “cool and methodical.” When Kemp asks more questions, Griffin again demands to be left to smoke in peace. Griffin says he needs to sleep, but then immediately declares that he can’t sleep because then Marvel will get away. Griffin says he has “a particular objection to being caught by my fellow-men,” and then worries that he has put ideas into Kemp’s head.
Griffin’s lack of social skills seems to verge on pathological. His extreme selfishness and rudeness combined with his enormous appetite for destruction and the delight he gets in causing harm to others suggest that he could be a sociopath or a psychopath. In this sense, invisibility could simply be an extension of his existing lack of remorse or consideration of consequences.
Themes
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Greed and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Skepticism vs. Belief Theme Icon
Humans, Science, and Nature Theme Icon