Monstrousness And The Invisible Man Essay

1548 words - 7 pages

In the novel The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells, and in the 1933 film adaptation of the same name, much attention is devoted to the question of the Invisible Man's humanity. Each work sees the the Invisible Man differently: as a monstrous being and a cynical, misunderstood man. H.G. Wells creates a sympathetic Griffin who is not a monster except in the imagination. The cinematic version, however, is a monstrous individual.
In order to determine whether or not the Invisible Man is a monster, we must first explore what a monster is. One of the qualities present in many Gothic works is the sense of involuntary evil that is embedded in the very nature of a monster. Some Gothic monsters really aren't even sentient; the werewolves and zombies of popular fiction are two examples. Other monsters are portrayed as having irresistible psychopathic tendencies, such as the insane murderers of Edgar Allan Poe's fiction. In either case, the monster is just fulfilling its nature.
Wells does not doom his Invisible Man to existence as a monster. Griffin is not mad. He has choice and is conscious of what he is doing. He also has a history of grievances against society at large. Griffin is seen as a deeply pitiful and sympathetic character at times, surrounded by a hysteria he has set off while trying to avoid attention. The battered, broken white form of the Invisible Man revealed on his death is not to induce revulsion in reader at the “monster's” corpse, but to plant a feeling of pity and a discomfort with the ordinary people who were his killers. As a work coming on the leading edge of science fiction, The Invisible Man raises questions of the proper role of science in society, and on the ethical applications of scientific knowledge. Griffin is a tragic figure in this tale. Wells seems to be condemning not only the arrogance and recklessness of Griffin, but the fearful and superstitious attitude of the common people that encounter, and eventually kill the Invisible Man. This is not unexpected from the at times deeply cynical Wells. But in this early work, science is a powerful tool, to be used for better or worse by fallible human beings. This human imperfection is important in examining Griffin and his motivations.
The Griffin of the novel is, admittedly, an unpleasant character, but also a pitiable one. He is born an albino, and as a result is exposed to both the curiosity and rejection of society at large. One cannot entirely fault him for his angry and reclusive manner, considering how he has been treated. He seems to have no relationships with anyone, no friends of companions of any kind. Kemp, the doctor who harbors Griffin near the end of the novel, is simply an old acquaintance from Griffin's university days. Griffin is, seen from the outside, a largely amoral and even emotionless individual. Driving him is his single minded devotion to the invisibility project. Our Griffin tells Kemp of the death his father, the only family member or relative that he...

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