The Invisible Man

by

H. G. Wells

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The Invisible Man: Chapter 19 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Kemp asks Griffin what’s wrong, and Griffin replies that it is nothing but a “fit of temper.” Kemp says that there’s breakfast, but that he first needs to understand more about Griffin’s invisibility. Griffin explains that he left London and went to Chesilstowe, dropping medicine in favor of physics. He had always been fascinated by light and optics, and at 22 decided he would devote his life to studying them. He reflects that everyone is foolish at 22. Griffin worked hard, and developed radical theories that he was not sure would work in reality. He explains how he began to theorize making something invisible using a series of different scientific principles.
This passage highlights a similarity between Griffin’s trajectory and the stock narrative of the “mad scientist.” For mad scientists, an earnest interest in research and desire to test radical hypotheses ends up going too far, resulting in disastrous consequences—just what happens to Griffin. Now, Griffin is so embittered that he does not see his youthful enthusiasm as positive, but rather as an example of foolishness.
Themes
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The Future vs. the Past Theme Icon
Humans, Science, and Nature Theme Icon
Griffin explains that he eventually came to realize that, although living organisms look opaque, the fibers through which they are constituted actually means that they can be rendered transparent. He explains that he’d realized all of this six years ago, just after he left London. He worried that his professor would steal his work, and thus refused to publish any of his theories. He did not wish to tell anyone about his experiments in case they stole the idea. One day he had a major breakthrough, when he realized that blood can be turned from red to a transparent white color.
It is normal for scientists to be protective of their research in order to avoid intellectual theft and plagiarism. However, Griffin’s paranoia about other people stealing his work goes to such an extreme degree that he keeps all of his research entirely secret. This ends up proving to be a form of self-sabotage, because there is no point in being worried about theft if no one knows about one’s work in the first place.
Themes
Freedom, Anonymity, and Immorality Theme Icon
The Future vs. the Past Theme Icon
Greed and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Humans, Science, and Nature Theme Icon
Having made this discovery about blood, Griffin then realized that he could turn tissue invisible—and hence an entire organism, too. Griffin was captivated by the idea of the freedom and power this would give him. At this point, he did not consider any negative sides to invisibility. He worked hard for three more years, while professors around him became increasingly nosy about his research. However, after all this work he suddenly realized that becoming invisible would be impossible for financial reasons. He suddenly becomes contemplative, and admits that he robbed his own father. It turned out that the money did not belong to his father, however, who ended up shooting himself.
It did not take long before Griffin’s experiments took on a seriously dark, sinister edge. Again, the fact that he was willing to steal from his father suggests that Griffin does not have a normal sense of moral principles, responsibility, or shame. Instead, he is singularly obsessed with pursuing his goal of invisibility, to the point that he will use anyone around him as a means to achieving this goal if necessary. It’s suggested that his father had borrowed the money Griffin stole, and so then would be unable to pay it back and killed himself out of shame.
Themes
Freedom, Anonymity, and Immorality Theme Icon
The Future vs. the Past Theme Icon
Greed and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Skepticism vs. Belief Theme Icon
Humans, Science, and Nature Theme Icon
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