The Invisible Man | Study Guide

H.G. Wells

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The Invisible Man | Chapter 18 : The Invisible Man Sleeps | Summary



As Griffin prepares to go to sleep, he tries to persuade Kemp to become his partner. He exacts a promise from Kemp that he will not make "attempts to hamper ... or capture" him. Kemp leaves Griffin in his bedroom while he takes refuge in the downstairs rooms. He muses over what he has learned. He first uses his scientific knowledge of "an invisible animal" to explain Griffin's invisibility. Next he reads and rereads two newspaper articles about the Invisible Man. His attention focuses in on "the incredulous account of the events in Iping" the previous day. After learning of Griffin's violence—"striking right and left," "windows smashed"—he concludes Griffin is both "mad" and "homicidal."

Kemp stays up all night, "trying to grasp the incredulous." When the morning newspapers arrive he reads new accounts of the previous day's events and learns the name of the tramp Griffin had been chasing, and the nature of their relationship. He sends "his housemaid out to get every one of the morning papers she could" and "devoured" each paper for more information about Griffin and his activities. After an internal debate about the ethics of breaking his word to Griffin, he writes a note to Colonel Adye, then races upstairs as he hears sounds of furniture being "flung over" and smashed in his bedroom.


The narrator continues to refer to Griffin in terms of how he is perceived by others. First, Doctor Kemp calls him the Invisible Man, even though Kemp knows he is Griffin. Kemp chooses to identify Griffin as the Invisible Man, not the former student he once knew. The narrator later calls Griffin the "dressing-gown," as a headless Griffin wearing only a dressing gown walks toward Kemp. Griffin is objectified and dehumanized, as H.G. Wells seems to liken him to an object of scientific study itself.

The theme of knowledge is developed as Kemp grapples with a fact that defies his knowledge of the world. He uses the words "incredible" and "absurdity" to express his disbelief in invisibility, but after touching his "bruised neck," he acknowledges the truth: Invisibility is an "undeniable fact." Like others, Kemp briefly considers he is insane or the "world has gone mad," but as a man of science he uses physical evidence to establish what is true. He then calls on his prior knowledge of invisibility—invisible animals—to make sense of the seemingly incongruent reality of Griffin's invisibility.

The motif of light as illuminating or awakening knowledge is present in the description of dawn: "When dawn came to mingle its pallor with the lamp-light and cigar smoke of the dining-room, Kemp was still pacing up and down, trying to grasp the incredible." Doctor Kemp, who just the previous day had proved invisibility was impossible, finds invisibility hard to believe, but he knows it is real. But there is too little information provided in the newspaper articles to "throw light on the connection between the Invisible Man and the Tramp"—thus, the dawn mingles with smoke, which is cloudy.

Although Kemp has agreed to shelter Griffin for the night, he comes to believe Griffin is mad. His decision to break his word to Griffin and make an "attempt to hamper" him shows his moral code. He determines that breaking his word is not a "breach of faith" as it is based on doing something for humanity, or the greater good. To not break his word would allow Griffin to act on his mad desires.

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