The Invisible Man

by

H. G. Wells

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The Invisible Man: Chapter 20 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Doctor Kemp stares silently for a moment, then takes Griffin’s arm and tells him to sit down, because he must be tired. With a sudden burst of energy, Griffin resumes his story. He explains that he had left Chesilstowe College by that point and returned to London. He recalls his father’s funeral, and how he did not feel sympathy for his father. He believed that his father was “the victim of his own foolish sentimentality.” That same day, Griffin met a girl he had known many years before, with whom he had a brief conversation.
Even after all of Griffin’s terrible, remorseless behavior, his lack of guilt or sadness about his father’s death is incredibly shocking. Indeed, this emphasizes just how isolated Griffin is. The episode with the girl is the only time in which there is even a vague allusion to Griffin’s social or romantic life. However, nothing comes of it—it is merely a minor blip in his broader story.
Themes
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Back at home, Griffin decided to finally try out making something invisible. At first he used a small piece of fabric, and was astonished that he succeeded in turning it transparent. He then heard a cat mewing outside the window, and tried to make her invisible too. However, this experiment failed, as the cat’s claws and the pigments in her eyes remained visible. The cat made loud, anguished miaowing sounds, and Griffin’s neighbor knocked at the door, saying she could hear her cat inside. However, Griffin pretended not to know what she was talking about.
Griffin’s willingness to experiment on the cat—despite the fact that he took it without permission and is clearly causing it pain—again emphasizes his total lack of empathy and remorse. Considering that Griffin cares so little about other people and animals, the havoc he could wreak now that he is invisible seems essentially limitless.
Themes
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Skepticism vs. Belief Theme Icon
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Time passed, and Griffin was not able to make the cats eyes or claws invisible, so it looked as if these parts of it were floating in midair. He got into bed but couldn’t sleep. The cat continued to miaow all night, and eventually Griffin got so frustrated that he opened a window and the cat left. Kemp is stunned, asking if this means that there is still an invisible cat wandering around. Griffin replies that the cat is probably dead. Griffin explains that by that point, working so hard for four years had made him too exhausted to feel anything. He was left totally “apathetic.”
Griffin blames his apathy on the fact that he exhausted himself from work, but the truth seems to be that he has a naturally rather apathetic personality. While at times he is able to approach his research with a sense of purpose and enthusiasm, it is unsurprising that at points he even loses this, considering his life is so devoid of sociality, empathy, joy, and meaning.
Themes
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Greed and Self-Interest Theme Icon
Humans, Science, and Nature Theme Icon
Griffin swallowed some Strychnine and went to sleep. The next day, he awoke to his landlord, an old Jewish man, at his door accusing him of torturing the cat. Griffin yelled at him and pushed him away, slamming the door shut. Griffin was suddenly terrified that his landlord would discover his experiments, and realized that he did not have enough time or money to move house. He left the house, carrying three notebooks and his check book, and sent them to a Post Office in Great Portland Street where books and letters can be stored. On returning home, Griffin saw his landlord trying to sneak into his room.
Griffin’s paranoia is not exactly baseless, as his landlord’s nosiness demonstrates. At the same time, Griffin is also arguably responsible for inviting the attention of his landlord by experimenting on his neighbor’s cat. Griffin’s paranoid mindset leads him to believe everyone around him is conspiring against him, when in reality it is he who brings much of his misfortune upon himself.
Themes
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When the landlord left, Griffin made his preparations and took the “drugs that decolourize blood,” which made him drowsy. His landlord knocked at his door with a notice of eviction; when he saw Griffin, his eyes widened in terror and he fled. Griffin went to the mirror and saw that his face was “like white stone.” That night, he suffered extreme agony, fainted, and threw up. At the same time, his body slowly turned glassy until only the very tips of his fingernails remained visible. He felt very weak, but managed to complete the final stage of the process that would render his body invisible.
The description of Griffin’s turn to invisibility is meant to seem realistic, and this is one of the reasons why The Invisible Man is usually classified as a science fiction book rather than simply a gothic or horror story. It doesn’t matter that Griffin’s invisibility is not particularly scientifically plausible—what counts is that it is rendered in a realistic fashion.
Themes
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Griffin slept, and was awoken by another knock at the door. He could hear the voice of his landlord accompanied by someone else. Just as Griffin went to open the door, someone began to try and break it down. Griffin was furious. He gathered together some old bits of paper and turned on the gas in order to start a fire, but could not find matches.
Griffin would rather set his entire apartment on fire than have his research be discovered, which shows the extent of his paranoia and secrecy.
Themes
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The landlord and his stepsons finally succeeded in breaking down the door, but to them, the room looked completely empty, as Griffin was now invisible. They opened the window to see if Griffin escaped that way, and Griffin felt euphoric to realize he had confounded them. They kept looking, but eventually gave up. Griffin realized that it was too risky to abandon the apartment as it was and, having succeeded in finding matches, set it on fire before leaving forever. As he left, his mind overflowed with all the things he could do now that he was invisible.
The first time Griffin actually feels joy after turning himself invisible is when he realizes that he can evade responsibility for wrongdoing. This glimpse of his own power delights him, and seemingly encourages him in burning down the apartment and escaping into a life of chaos, totally free from consequences (or so he thinks).
Themes
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Greed and Self-Interest Theme Icon
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