And what do you suppose you could do if you were invisible? What would you do if no one could see you? H. G. Wells probes these questions in this classic work, The Invisible Man. This story cleverly explores the concept of becoming invisible with its benefits and curses. (Mostly curses….)
For starters, if you haven’t read H. G. Wells, just be aware that he does have some profanity. This fact is a shame on many fronts, but mostly in that his work is inventive and of literary value. The language makes the book less accessible to children (though children’s adaptations exist).
On to the fun stuff…. All most all of the superheroes designed by Marvel comics have one incredible fact to their name; most of them have a special set of clothes that morphs according to their special ability. The invisible woman’s clothes turn invisible with her. Mr. Fantastic has a suit of clothes that stretches with his body. Superman’s clothes are invincible due to a protective aura around his body. Let us ponder this for a second. Without these special miracles that keep their clothes on them, these superheroes would be bit chilly pretty quickly. Mr. Fantastic would stretch right out of his clothes. Superman’s clothes would be shot or burned right off his back. Oops. The Invisible Woman would have a problem when she turned invisible. Everyone would still see her clothes. And so, the main character of our story, The Invisible Man, has this very problem. He has the choice of being seen wearing clothes and bandages head to toe or running around without any clothes at all (this being problematic in the winter).
When you are invisible and without clothes, life in the city is tough. Not seeing you, people run into you. How do you eat when you are invisible? Until the food is digested, people can see it…. Your greatest weapon is the secret of your invisibility. How do you keep it a secret and still survive? The Invisible Man discovers the difficulty of answering these questions while he seeks to find a method to reverse his invisibility.
Our invisible friend is a “mad scientist” who wants two things: fame and money. He tries to tell himself that his work is for the good of mankind, but his action betray him like perfume concealed in one’s hand. He excuses his brutality and felonious behavior by casting the blame on the simpletons who are preventing him from finishing his work. These “simpletons” are confused by his strange devices and chemicals; he refuses to educate them, but rather expects them to kowtow to his genius regardless of the impact on their lives. Still, as a character, we find humanity in him and the ability to sympathize with his problems. Sometimes others are at fault to some degree, but his excessive responses place the majority of the blame on his shoulders.
Wells writes this story as if a historian writing about the events of the recent past. The only facts that he reveals about the Invisible Man come from the observations of those at the scene or through the confessions of the Invisible Man himself. Most authors blend this sort of perspective with an omniscient narrator, but Wells resists that temptation making this a particularly good read. The reader never has advanced knowledge over the characters in the story.
I encourage that you read the book for its literary value, enjoyable plot, and philosophical discussion of academia and scientists.
Quick poll: If you could pick one, which super power would you choose and why? How would this affect your daily living?