The Invisible Man | Study Guide

H.G. Wells

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The Invisible Man | Chapter 9 : Mr. Thomas Marvel | Summary



Mr. Thomas Marvel, a tramp, is sitting in a ditch by the road to Adderdean when Griffin approaches him and speaks to him. Marvel is flummoxed by hearing someone he cannot see. He assumes the speaker is hiding nearby, or he has imagined a voice because he was drinking. When Griffin shakes him by the collar and pokes a finger in his chest, Marvel believes his imagination is playing tricks on him. After Griffin strikes him with flints (stones), he becomes nearly convinced another person is present. His conviction is complete when Griffin grips his wrist and touches him.

Griffin explains he is invisible and tells Marvel he needs his help to "get clothes—and shelter—and then, with other things." Marvel declines, saying he is "flabbergasted." Griffin refuses to accept his decision and demands his help, saying, "You have to do the job I've chosen for you." Griffin promises Marvel that he will do great things for him, but he threatens to do something harmful if Marvel betrays him. Marvel agrees to help Griffin, saying, "All I want to do is to help you—just tell me what I got to do."


H.G. Wells explores concepts related to social class. Despite the seeming disparities between a scientist and a tramp, Marvel and Griffin share the characteristics of homelessness and poverty. Marvel, though, is a drifter with nothing better to do than consider the merits of two pairs of boots, while Griffin has a very specific, single-minded mission. Despite his current station in life, Marvel considers himself a "gentleman on tramp." Griffin, too, considers his present station temporary and considers himself superior to others because of his intellect and scientific achievement.

Marvel disparages the local people for the way they treat him, even though he has "got my boots in this country ten years or more." Griffin affirms his opinion, saying, "It's a beast of a country." Griffin describes the villagers as "pigs for people," which shows his contempt for the simplemindedness of the country folk. He appeals to Marvel's status as an outsider to create an affinity with him.

Like others who encounter Griffin, Marvel attempts to explain the strange phenomenon of hearing a voice when he cannot see the speaker. He asks, "Am I drunk? Have I had visions?" in an attempt to reconcile the strange events with his knowledge of the world. While Marvel is not an educated man or scientist, he still adopts a positivist approach and believes that occurrences in the natural world, such as sound, must have a logical basis. If there is no evidence to support them, he then thinks the fault must be within him, such as that he is imagining things.

More about Griffin's invisibility is revealed when Marvel asks if Griffin had eaten bread and cheese recently. While Griffin's body is invisible, the contents of his stomach during digestion are not. This explains one reason why Griffin needs Marvel's assistance: he needs help hiding out until his food is digested.

Griffin also hints that he has a purpose for his invisibility—it is not just to show it could be achieved. Instead, he has things he wants to do, things that have been left undone "long enough." And he reveals he is prone to violence when he describes how he was in a rage and "could have murdered." He declares, "An invisible man is a man of power," suggesting his plan to use his invisibility for nefarious purposes. When he tells Marvel he will do "great things" for the other man in exchange for help, he foreshadows an event in the Epilogue. Marvel agrees to accompany Griffin based on fear and force and not because of what Griffin can do for him. Yet it turns out that Griffin does do great things for him, as Marvel is the only one who benefits from Griffin's invisibility.

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