The Invisible Man | Study Guide

H.G. Wells

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The Invisible Man | Chapter 26 : The Wicksteed Murder | Summary

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Summary

As Doctor Kemp's plan to capture Griffin is carried out, the area goes on lockdown. Passenger trains "travelled with locked doors, and the goods traffic was almost entirely suspended." Mounted policemen roam the countryside, warning people to stay inside and lock their doors. Small groups of men armed with guns and bludgeons search the area near Burdock. No sign of Griffin is found until midafternoon. Then the battered body of Mr. Wicksteed is found "on the edge of a gravel pit" near Lord Burdock's lodge gate. He appears to have been beaten with "an iron rod dragged from a broken piece of fence." Wicksteed is a man with no known enemies, "the very last person in the world to provoke such a terrible antagonist."

The narrator pieces together two details to speculate as to what happened. One, the gravel pit near where Wicksteed's body is found was not in his direct path home. The second, a little girl going to school in the afternoon had seen Wicksteed "'trotting'" in a peculiar manner across a field toward the gravel pit as if he were being pursued. The narrator hypothesizes Griffin had taken the iron rod as a potential weapon, and Wicksteed had given chase when he saw the rod "inexplicably moving though the air," causing Griffin to strike out at his pursuer.

Griffin manages to avoid detection. The only possible trace of him is from a report of a voice heard "wailing and laughing, sobbing and groaning" near Fern Bottom.

Analysis

Griffin is perceived as the greatest danger Burdock and the neighboring towns have ever faced. The people in the area willingly limit their freedom, and the officials use all available resources to capture a man they consider dangerous. This could be seen as comparable to a contemporary large-scale utilization of government and civilian resources to hunt and capture a known or suspected terrorist.

The narrator's injection of what might have happened is out of character for the novel. Prior to this chapter, the narrator has not provided personal opinions or commentary of any length. The narrator paints Griffin as a character with some humanity, as someone who may not have intentionally killed Wicksteed but only did so when backed into an inescapable situation. The narrator also suggests that Griffin feels remorse for the killing and may be troubled by what he did. The narrator's portrayal of Griffin's feeling remorse is inconsistent with Griffin's actions to date. Griffin expresses no remorse for his father's death (except a nightmare suggesting the death bothers him), for burning his former lodging house down, for beating various individuals, or for tying an elderly man up so tightly he'd have great difficulty escaping. Why, then, does the narrator think an act so depraved as taking another person's life has sparked any dormant humanity within Griffin? Perhaps the narrator is expressing the author's opinions or playing devil's advocate by presenting a scenario in conflict with Doctor Kemp's claim that Griffin is a terrorist. Or maybe H.G. Wells is preparing the foundation for the reader to question the morality concerning Griffin's violent death to come. Wells could even be suggesting that the taking of any life, even that of a man hell-bent on a reign of terror, is a crime against humanity.

Despite dogs and crowds of men hunting for him, Griffin manages to evade capture. He has intelligence and the ability to survive without the conveniences of civilization. The narrator's musing on the possibility of Griffin's possessing humanity is temporary. By the next morning Griffin has made his presence known again, and the narrator describes Griffin as "himself again ... angry, and malignant."

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