The Invisible Man | Study Guide

H.G. Wells

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The Invisible Man | Chapter 22 : In the Emporium | Summary

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Summary

Continuing to tell his story, Griffin says he enters a large store, Omniums, shortly before closing time, intending to find a place to sleep and to rob the place for food and clothing. He mills around until the customers, workers, and cleaning crew depart. Then he helps himself to trousers, pants, socks, a jacket, an overcoat, a slouch hat with "the brim turned down," and other items. This makes him begin "to feel a human being again." Next he helps himself to food and an artificial nose before settling in on a heap of down quilts.

Although Griffin feels serene as he falls asleep, he has a disturbing dream in which he is forced into his father's open grave and buried alive as "gravel [comes] flying after [him] in spadefuls." As he wakes, he hears sounds of men approaching. Dressed but hatless, his movements are detected, and the shop workers raise an alarm. When a worker finds Griffin hiding under a counter, Griffin whips a chair at him and then sends another man spinning. He smashes an art pot on a pursuer before causing the whole pile of pots to fall. He evades another pursuer by downing him with a lamp. Griffin takes off all his clothes except his lambswool vest, which "fits a man like a skin" and races to his bedstead storeroom. He manages to peel the vest off just before the policemen and shopmen come around the corner. They spot his discarded clothes but cannot find him. Griffin eventually leaves the store without his coveted clothes and with "only the vaguest plans of action" in his mind.

Analysis

Griffin begins his new life as an invisible man isolated from other humans and concerned with primal needs. Like an animal, he simply wants to find shelter from the snow and warm himself. Griffin had supposed invisibility would bring invincibility, or omnipotence, but he is unable to access the basic creature comforts of human civilization. He is denied those comforts as the houses are barred against him. Griffin's isolation from society is complete, but only now does he feel it, because his own safety and comfort have vanished along with his visibility. He seeks shelter from the elements in a large department store, a symbol of commercialism. There he is like an unsafe animal, hiding from humans who encroached on his territory. He finds a resting spot—which he describes as his "lair." After obtaining clothes, he "began to feel a human being again." Without being a part of humanity, which includes commerce, it is very difficult to survive.

Griffin has conflicted feelings about his invisibility. He wants both the amenities of civilization and the advantages his invisibility gives him over other people. He dislikes, however, being jostled and injured by people who don't know he exists and forced to grovel for food and clothing like an animal.

His dream foreshadows his own death and shows recognition of the role he plays in it. He says, "Overwhelming forces had their grip on me." Were those overwhelming forces the sum of all his actions, a type of retribution for his father's death and other harms he had committed against people in his self-serving researching, or external forces that had nothing to do with his actions? As more is revealed about Griffin's past, questions about his culpability in his misfortune rise to the surface.

Griffin's sense of superiority is illustrated by his description of the two store assistants in the refreshment room as fools. Nonetheless, his own ineptitude is evident, as he is unable to perform basic shop tasks such as addressing a parcel. He is acutely aware of his failure, as illustrated by his being "exasperated by [his] want of success." Despite having accomplished the great feat of invisibility, Griffin has failed to execute his experiment successfully. He lacks the basic resources to survive and leaves the store—also a symbol of civilization—to reenter a world that is like the wilderness to him.

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