The Invisible Man | Study Guide

H.G. Wells

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The Invisible Man | Chapter 5 : The Burglary at the Vicarage | Summary



A burglary occurs at the vicarage. Mrs. Bunting awakens before dawn after hearing her bedroom door open and close and the sound of footsteps. She wakes up her husband, who hears the sounds of someone moving around the study. They go downstairs, where they find a burning candle and an opened drawer in the study. When they hear the "chink of money," Mr. Bunting grabs a poker and rushes into the room. Neither sees an intruder, and they search the room for one without success. Unable to accept they had imagined the noises, they list evidence someone had been in the room: a burning candle, an open drawer, and money removed from it.

The sound of a sneeze redirects their search. They chase after the noise, only to hear the kitchen door slam. They see the back door open and shut, further proof someone had been in their house and just left it. Puzzled, they search the entire house, including the cellar, and fail to discover anyone.


The main action in this chapter is the burglary and the exposure of Griffin's presence at the vicarage. He makes his presence known through sound. The Buntings are unable to see an intruder, but they know one was there. Unlike other villagers, they don't doubt their senses or sanity. Instead, they have "conviction that they had, that very moment, heard somebody moving in the room." In keeping with the positivism philosophy and emphasis on science that arose following Darwin's publication of his theory of evolution, the Buntings seek to find a physical source to explain how the candle could have been lit when there is no other physical evidence of a human intruder.

The chapter is filled with references to light. The Buntings awaken before dawn, when "the ultimate darkness of the night was past." Light represents awareness, or the ability to know. Ultimate darkness represents the absence of awareness, and dawn, a period before full light, represents the advent of awareness, or the beginning of illumination. When Griffin lights a candle in the study, he floods the room with "yellow light," which represents sunlight, or shining a light on the truth. This is undeniably evidence of Griffin's presence, even though the Buntings cannot see him. Griffin's exit from the house as "the faint light of early dawn displayed the dark masses of the garden beyond" foreshadows a future illumination, or bringing of facts to the surface that will be a turning point in his life. As he slams the back door, Mrs. Bunting's candle "flickered and flared," with "flickering" representing the Buntings' momentary doubt or disbelief someone had been there, and "flaring" representing their certainty someone had been there despite their inability to see the intruder.

The chapter ends with the couple marveling "by the unnecessary light of a guttering candle." Taken literally, they no longer need the candlelight because there is ample daylight to see. Taken figuratively, they don't need light to see because things exist that cannot be seen.

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