The Invisible Man | Study Guide

H.G. Wells

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The Invisible Man | Chapter 23 : In Drury Lane | Summary

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Summary

Griffin continues telling Doctor Kemp his story. After he leaves the department store, he formulates a plan to disguise his face and get clothing. He goes to a theatrical costume shop with the plan to hide in it and find a wig, mask, spectacles, and costume. Things do not go according to plan. The bell jingles when Griffin opens the door, so he leaves it open. The Costumier thinks some kids perhaps opened the door, but he becomes suspicious when he hears Griffin's movements on the stairs. Griffin manages to sneak into an upstairs room with the Costumier and wait while the man eats.

After he finishes breakfast and leaves the room, the sounds of Griffin's moving around put the Costumier on the alert again. He searches the house, looking for the possible intruder—slamming and locking doors as he goes. Griffin slips into a room and rummages through a trove of old clothes, but the Costumier hears the sounds, and comes in with a revolver in his hand. Seeing nothing, he leaves, locking the door behind him. Now Griffin is locked in. The Costumier comes back—revolver still in hand—when Griffin accidentally knocks something over. This time the Costumier accidentally touches Griffin. Enraged from being hunted by the Costumier, Griffin knocks the man out, pushes him down the stairs, gags him, and ties him in a sheet—using tight knots.

Kemp interrupts Griffin's story and asks why he hurt the shop owner. Griffin explains his actions were necessary so he could "get out of that house in a disguise without his seeing me." They have a heated discussion about Griffin's actions, which ends after Kemp abruptly acknowledges Griffin was in a fix and "the thing had to be done." Griffin then resumes his story. He explains how he searches the house, steals "everything that could possibly be of service," and puts on a costume to disguise himself. After he leaves the costume shop, he eats in a private room of an eatery and muses over his failed experiment. He then comes up with "a full blown idea" of a way to get back and continue "all I mean to do invisibly."

Next, Griffin speaks about his time in Iping and more recent events. Griffin tells Doctor Kemp what his rage feels like and how he wants to mow down anyone who crosses him.

Analysis

This chapter focuses on the themes of invisibility and humanity versus science. It describes in depth the disadvantages of Griffin's invisibility, the motivations for his invisibility, and his frustrations with being unable to use his invisibility as intended. It provides additional examples of Griffin's willingness to harm others and commit crimes in order to advance his own desires.

Griffin's use of violence against others is increasing, and he uses excessive force when it is unnecessary; his reasoning: someone stood in his way. When Doctor Kemp questions him, Griffin justifies his actions. Griffin's response ignores the fact that it was unnecessary for him to gag the Costumier and tie him up in knots. The man was already knocked out and immobilized.

Rather than taking responsibility for his actions, Griffin blames his victim for hunting him with a revolver. He refuses to recognize the "man was in his own house"—as Doctor Kemp argues—and Griffin was robbing him. When Griffin asks Kemp if he blames him, Kemp replies, "I never blame anyone. ... It's quite out of fashion." This reflects the Victorian view that people were a product of their environment and genes. Proponents of this view were unlikely to fault criminals for their actions based on the assumption that criminals lacked free will and were not responsible for their actions. Kemp's challenge to Griffin to consider "the common conventions of humanity" shows Griffin considers himself immune from such conventions because they were "for common people," not himself.

Griffin shows his experiment in invisibility extends beyond scientific knowledge. He now knows the limitations and disadvantages of his invisibility, and has all the information needed to publish the results of his experiment. He wants, however, to use his invisibility for personal gain, for power over others. This builds a theme closely related to humanity versus science: the theme of power versus morality. Griffin aspires to use the power of his invisibility with impunity to do as he pleases, with no concern for the consequences. In this way, he is like any other person who abuses power for improper personal gain.

Kemp's statement that Griffin is not to blame is not acquiescence but Kemp's growing realization that Griffin is a sociopath, and his desire to avoid antagonizing him.

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