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The Invisible Man | Motifs



References to light as a source of illumination, representing awareness and understanding, are a recurring element throughout The Invisible Man. Light represents transparency, full disclosure, or a way to discern the truth about people and the world. Similarly, varying degrees of light represent partial degrees of understanding. For example, when H.G. Wells first introduces the character of Doctor Kemp, he uses several references to light to show Kemp is a man of great knowledge. His study is described as being lit with a solar lamp, which obtains light from the sun, the master source of Earth's light. There is also visible sunlight through the windows. His environment is fully illuminated, which allows him to see and understand the world's knowledge. When Kemp looks out his window, he sees Marvel running down the hill at the same moment as a sunset blazes. The blazing light of the sunset indicates that this moment heralds the awareness of life-shattering knowledge of the world.

In contrast, when Mr. Hall enters Griffin's room after the dog bites his trouser legs, he sees "what seemed a handless arm waving toward him." The light in the room is dim, and all he can detect is "a waving of indecipherable shapes." The dim light impedes his ability to understand what he has seen. Other examples are found in the chapter in which the vicarage is burglarized. The light of a candle convinces the Buntings an intruder has been in their house and represents their first acknowledgment of an invisible person. Following a search in which they see no one but hear the sounds of the Invisible Man, they stand in their doorway as the dawn's light emerges. The faint light of dawn represents a glimmer of knowledge of the Invisible Man's existence.


Blinds are another recurrent element in the novel, indicating different degrees of light. When a blind is lowered, it represents concealment. For example, in the first chapter Griffin pulls the blind down, "leaving the room in a twilight," and returns to his meal "with an easier air." Griffin's flesh, blood, and bones are invisible, but the food he eats is visible in his stomach while it digests—as is smoke in his throat from his pipe—so he needs to limit the light to conceal his body. Another example occurs in the Epilogue when Marvel describes his Sunday morning routine. He closes the inn "to the outer world" and "locks the door and examines the blinds" to conceal the secret that he still possesses Griffin's research diaries. Opening a blind represents disclosure, or openness to new information. For example, in Chapter 22 when Griffin is hiding in the emporium, raising the blinds results in his discovery. Similarly, a lowered blind often represents the opposite: an unwillingness to accept or examine facts that conflict with one's understanding of the world.

Windows and Other Gateways

Windows and other gateways, such as doors, represent knowledge. In some scenes they have literal meaning: a person sees through a window or moves through a door; shutting a window or door prevents movement. In other scenes, windows and doors represent the presentation of information and its transfer from one person to another. For example, in Chapter 11 the narrator says, "Now in order to clearly understand what happened in the inn, it is necessary to go back to the moment when Mr. Marvel first came into view of Mr. Huxter's window." Mr. Huxter's window is the portal to understanding something that defies an eyewitness's knowledge. In the next chapter people hide in their homes after Griffin's notable and violent departure from Iping, but there is the "occasional flitting eye under a raised eyebrow in the corner of a windowpane." Literally, people are viewing their environment and assessing the situation; figuratively, the people are attempting to gain knowledge about Griffin's invisibility. But they only peek out of a corner of a windowpane, showing their limited willingness to explore something so foreign to their understanding of the natural world. In other scenes a character stands in front of a window and gazes out, as if the act could reveal the answers to all the world's mysteries—or at least explain the odd happenings in Iping.

The opening and shutting of doors accompany many of the revelations of Griffin's invisibility. Breaking down of the door of his London house forces the invisible Griffin out of his research rooms and into the streets. In Iping, Griffin's first physical contact with another person results in Cuss's running out of his room and leaving the door "open behind him." Mrs. Hall looks at the open door of the parlor and hears Griffin laughing and moving in the room. Then "the parlor door slam[s], and the place [is] silent again." Doors also prevent such revelations. Mrs. Hall frequently attempts to gain knowledge by eavesdropping at the parlor door when Griffin is inside the parlor, but she is unable to breach the barrier of a door and learn what he is up to.

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