The Invisible Man

by

H. G. Wells

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The Invisible Man: Chapter 23 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Griffin admits that before becoming invisible, he did not think of the disadvantages and difficulties that invisibility would bring. He has no food or lodging, and if he puts on clothes he loses all the advantages of being invisible in the first place. He can’t go outside in snow, rain, or fog, because it makes an imprint of him visible. After returning to watch his old apartment on Great Portland Street burning, Griffin spots a shop that sells news, toys, and other miscellaneous items including masks. He enters the shop and plans to lie in wait until it closes, when he can peruse the items freely.
Griffin has made himself homeless, destitute, hungry, and alone. In some ways, he is at an even greater disadvantage than homeless beggars on the street. At least these people are able to receive charity from strangers and eat. Although Griffin is able to rob stores and seek shelter, his invisibility makes life so unsustainable that it is hard to see how much longer he can go on living like this.
Themes
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Griffin stands hesitantly as the shopkeeper comes in and out of the shop, seemingly suspicious that someone else is there. He keeps waiting while the shopkeeper, who is frustratingly alert and keeps moving around, eats his meal. Finally thinking that the shopkeeper has left, Griffin sits in the man’s chair to warm himself by the fire. Without thinking he puts on a coal, and this noise makes the shopkeeper return. The man stands staring for an excessively long time. Griffin tries to leave but keeps almost bumping into the shopkeeper, who suddenly stands still to listen. Griffin realizes that he must have exceptional hearing. 
The problem of the shopkeeper’s sharp hearing highlights the fact that Griffin needs to rely on other people’s ignorance and skepticism in order to survive. As long as people don’t think that it is truly possible that an invisible man walks among them, Griffin may just be able to get away with sneaking around and stealing to survive. However, the shopkeeper shows him that it might not be easy to go unnoticed for long.
Themes
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Eventually the shopkeeper leaves, slamming the door in Griffin’s face. The shopkeeper locks Griffin inside the house, but after Griffin accidentally brings a pile of clothes crashing down on himself, the shopkeeper returns once more, this time touching Griffin. The shopkeeper is now frightened and starts walking around the house with a gun in his hand. Griffin manages to knock him out with a stool and throws his body down the stairs. He then gags him and ties him up with a sheet. At this point in the story Kemp interrupts, horrified at Griffin’s breach of morality. Griffin insists that he had no choice, and Kemp seems to halfheartedly agree.
Griffin claims that he was forced to hurt the shopkeeper, which is perhaps his justification for all the other harm and destruction he has caused thus far as well. On the other hand, Griffin himself does not seem to really care whether he behaves in a moral way or not. It is arguably only to assuage Kemp that Griffin even points out that he was acting in a warped form of self-defense.
Themes
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After tying up the shopkeeper, Griffin eats some bread and cheese he found in the shop and drinks brandy and water. He then rigorously searches the whole shop, collecting anything he might find useful and putting it in a bag. He finds a mask, dark glasses, a beard, a wig, and some clothes. He also steals money from a locked cupboard. Griffin then stares at himself in the mirror and wonders if his appearance is “credible.” Eventually, he leaves. Kemp asks if he ever heard anything more from the shopkeeper, and Griffin replies that he didn’t.
The fate of the shopkeeper is clearly completely immaterial to Griffin. Indeed, the point of telling his story to Doctor Kemp seems to be to explain how Griffin survived as an invisible man, and in a sense to boast about his own ingenuity. However, this aim has backfired, as it seems that Kemp is more and more distressed by Griffin’s blatant lack of morals.
Themes
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Griffin continues his story: now that he has a full outfit, he briefly assumes that he will finally be able to reap the advantages of invisibility. He fantasizes about stealing money and treating himself to a sumptuous feast; however, after going to a restaurant he realizes that he cannot eat in public, or else others will notice that he’s invisible. He laments that all the joys of life are no longer available to him because he is invisible, and that he is now “a swathed and bandaged caricature of a man.”
This is one of several moments when Griffin’s story most closely resembles a myth or parable. In Greek mythology, the Bible, and other religious narratives, stories are told about people who seek to further their own power and in doing so warp the natural order. Ultimately, these people always inadvertently ruin their own lives.
Themes
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Kemp asks how Griffin got to Iping, and Griffin explains that he went there to work. He recalls the snowy day when he first arrived. Griffin asks if he killed “that fool of a constable,” and Kemp replies that it is believed he will survive. Griffin then wonders about “that tramp of mine.” He emphasizes how angry it makes him to have worked so hard and have his efforts be ruined by foolish people. He threatens that if things continue like this, “I shall start mowing ‘em.” Kemp comments that he can imagine it must be frustrating.
Despite Griffin’s many acts of cruelty and destruction, he remains convinced that it is he who is the victim of other people. Griffin believes that he is surrounded by fools who make his life impossible. In reality, Griffin has brought his own difficulties onto himself, and has behaved in an unforgivably cruel way to everyone around him.
Themes
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Greed and Self-Interest Theme Icon