Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

The Invisible Man (Paperback)The epilogue of this little paperback roused more emotion in me than the book itself, which is not unusual for works written in the 19th century - authors of that time had a penchant for extensive exposition and Mr. Wells inserted quite a bit of it under the guise of Griffin telling his story to Dr. Kemp. This slowed down the narrative so much I had to force myself to not skip paragraphs for the fear of missing something important.
The author of the epilogue claims that while Griffin is an anti-hero Wells makes him sympathetic throughout the book and the reader roots for him despite his unpleasant nature. May be I'm highly desensitized but there was only one time when I felt anything mildly resembling sympathy for Griffin and that was when he was captured and killed by the policemen and good citizens of the small town he's chosen for his Terror. His body, beaten and broken, with his chest crushed, slowly becoming visible before the amazed eyes of his captors had more humanity in that moment of death than it ever did while still living and breathing.
I wondered what would make a man such an unlikable, selfish brute for it is highly doubtful that he was born with so little regard for others around him. Quite possibly he was shunned by first his childhood peers, then his school mates and possibly his colleagues because of his albino appearance. By the time he became independent he was so bitter that even if anyone showed any kindness to him he would take it as mockery and would suspect an ulterior motive. I wouldn't be surprised either if many of his ideas about the world and people around him were a result of paranoia.
Most frequently people want to possess or be something unusual for the fame and fortune it would bring. It does not appear, however, that Griffin ever wanted either, even as a byproduct of his research. He was much more concerned with preserving the secret as his own and when the formula was completed he only desired to descent deeper into the seclusion invisibility would provide, to not have to deal with the pesky people surrounding him. He also probably dreamed of revenge against those who he believed wronged him.
Is it possible that his life would have been different had he revealed his findings to the scientific community? Possibly. Could he have gone to his colleagues after becoming invisible and asked for their help? Also a possibility. Was he the kind of man to have done either? Most likely not. He's pushed everyone away, even those who were not turned off by his unusual appearance, with his temper, intolerance and general air of superiority and so even if he wanted to ask for help there wouldn't have been anyone for him to turn to.
Griffin's ultimate undoing however wasn't his alienation, his ego or even his temper. It was his choice of "helpers". A man with similar ideas and mental constitution would have been a good partner for him, but neither Kemp, a man of principles, nor Marvel, a plotting coward, were suitable for that role. Griffin failed to see that the latter was too afraid to stay by his side and the former wasn't convinced enough by his misguided ideas. He also failed to see that the world wouldn't just accept him in the role of a tyrant, that they would stand up for themselves and him believing in his own superiority and right wasn't enough.
The saddest part of it all is that Griffin appeared genuinely surprised that Kemp and the townsfolk stood up to him, that they had ideas of their own about how to live their lives, which brings about new questions: how does a man end up in a place where he does not even acknowledge the possibility that others might have a different opinion, let alone consider what that opinion might actually be? Are we all subject to such a delusion if we lock ourselves away from others for long enough? And finally, was Mr. Wells cautioning us to not confine ourselves within the limits of our own minds so much that we would lose touch with what the real world is all about? The last question we may never know the answer to but the other two are open for consideration.

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