The Invisible Man | Study Guide

H.G. Wells

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The Invisible Man | Chapter 4 : Mr. Cuss Interviews the Stranger | Summary

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Summary

During the next three months, Griffin settles into the inn and spends most of his time working. He has no visitors and rarely leaves the inn, except for at twilight when he goes for walks around the village. He becomes a source of conversation among the villagers. Although Mrs. Hall claims he is an experimental investigator, others speculate he is a criminal in hiding, an explosive-making anarchist, a piebald, or a harmless lunatic. They poke fun at him: "Young humorists" turn up their coat collars and turn down their hat brims, mimicking him. Villagers whistle bars from the popular song "Bogey Man," and children call out "Bogey Man" when Griffin appears.

Cuss, the general practitioner, visits Griffin under the pretense of asking for a donation for the Nurse Fund. The two men meet in the parlor and talk for 10 minutes. Griffin reveals something of personal significance. He explains he had a valuable prescription and lost it. His research is related to this lost prescription and he expresses frustration about it, saying it was "a damnable long research." Although he discloses this information, Griffin is irritated when Cuss pushes for additional disclosure. Cuss then rushes out of the inn, "his face white, his eyes staring over his shoulder." He meets up with the vicar, Mr. Bunting, and relates the events of his visit. Cuss says Griffin had been explaining how he had lost a valuable prescription and, in doing so, animatedly gestured with his arm. Cuss noticed Griffin's sleeve was empty, and he had no hand. Assuming Griffin had a cork arm, Cuss had asked, "How the devil ... can you move an empty sleeve like that?" Griffin replied by taunting Cuss, "It's an empty sleeve, is it?" Then Griffin approached Cuss with his nonexistent hand and pinched Cuss on his nose with what Cuss says felt like fingers and a thumb. For all his attempts to hide his invisibility with a scarf, turned-up collar, and other items, Griffin was so incensed by Cuss's belief he had an empty sleeve that he revealed he did have a hand and arm, even though Cuss could not see them and did not know what to make of the touch. The frightened Cuss hit Griffin's cuff and ran out of the inn.

Analysis

Two significant events happen in Chapter 4. Griffin connects with a villager for the first time. He converses with Cuss, another man of science, and reveals something of personal significance, research related to a prescription. Griffin also makes physical contact with another person for the first time, demonstrating that his body exists, even though it cannot be seen. He challenges Cuss's perception that he has an empty sleeve, saying, "You said it was an empty sleeve?" immediately before pinching his nose. Later in the novel, Griffin's frustration about his predicament will increase; pinching Cuss's nose is only the beginning of Griffin's frustrations manifesting in crossing physical boundaries.

H.G. Wells brings in a religious allusion in this chapter. He uses it here to express the significance of the loss of the prescription (and begin to tie it to Griffin's overall predicament and extraordinary achievement of turning himself invisible). The discussion between Cuss and Griffin occurs as Whitsuntide is approaching. Whitsuntide, which lasts a week in the Christian faith, begins with Whit Sunday, also known as Pentecost, a Christian holy day commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples. According to the Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament, on the 50th day after Easter, a rushing wind blew into the apostles' house. A flame of fire filled each apostle with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke in other languages to communicate God's messages. The Pentecost is considered the beginning of the Christian church.

The events surrounding Griffin's loss of his prescription have similarities with those of the Pentecost. The prescription lists five ingredients, which either make it possible for him to be invisible or would reverse his invisibility. This knowledge would bring in a new age of science, just as the Pentecost shepherded in the Christian church. In both events, a wind enters a house. The wind represents a breath of new life. For the Pentecost, it was the Christian church. For Griffin, it represents his invisibility. Both events have fire. For the Pentecost, fire represents the Holy Spirit, which gave the apostles divine powers and enabled them to spread the messages of God. For Griffin, fire destroys a piece of paper containing information that would give him divinelike powers and allow him to control the world. While this appears to be the opposite of the fire on the Pentecost, the fire represented the Holy Spirit in both cases and highlights the conflict between power used for the good of humanity and power used for evil purposes. This introduces another theme: power versus morality.

The chapter continues to explore how individuals attempt to define the unknown. Using his scientific skills, Cuss makes direct observations and uses conversation to learn more about Griffin. The knowledge he gains defies everything he believes to be true. Unable to understand how Griffin can physically touch him when his sleeve is empty, he asks Mr. Bunting, "Do I look like an insane person?" After Bunting hears his tale, he looks at Cuss with suspicion, suggesting he doubts either his tale or his sanity, as, in turn, this defies Bunting's understanding of the world. The interplay between a medical doctor and religious leader is important in that they both have trouble accepting the incredible, the unseen.

The narrator's use of the term stranger to refer to Griffin continues to develop the theme of invisibility, which isolates Griffin. Griffin has never told anyone in Iping his name. He wants to be anonymous, for his identity to be as invisible as his body. In subsequent chapters, the more isolated Griffin becomes, the more violent and despotic become his actions.

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