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The Invisible Man | Plot Summary

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Summary

Problem of Invisibility

Griffin, a strange man, arrives in Sussex, England, on a snowy day in late February and takes a room in the Coach and Horses in Iping Village. To his innkeeper, Mrs. Hall, he appears to be a man suffering from physical deformity, wrapped in bandages and wearing blue goggles, but he is, rather, invisible and uses clothing to cover up his invisibility. He spends his time alone in his private parlor, researching how to reverse his invisibility, and limits his interaction with the townspeople to prevent the exposure of his secret. After the villagers witness a series of unusual events, such as Griffin's arm moving with no visible body in its sleeve, tensions mount between Griffin and the townspeople. When a burglary happens at the vicarage around the same time Griffin stops paying his bill at the inn, Mrs. Hall confronts Griffin publicly, and in a violent mood of temper he strips off his costume and reveals he is invisible. Griffin flees Iping in a hurry, leaving behind his precious lab equipment and research notes.

Desperate to continue his research and reverse his invisibility, Griffin takes a tramp named Thomas Marvel hostage—through violent threats—and forces him to become his personal helper. (Left to his own devices, Griffin cannot carry any objects without revealing his presence.) Griffin, completely naked and invisible, returns with Marvel to the Coach and Horses. Griffin and Marvel manage to grab some of Griffin's things. Marvel flees and Griffin tackles several people to prevent their chasing after Marvel. The villagers raise the alarm about an Invisible Man, and news spreads throughout the area.

The next day Griffin and Marvel go to Port Stowe. An invisible Griffin robs a bank and several shops, and hides the stolen money in Marvel's pockets. Marvel manages to escape Griffin and run for shelter in a bar, the Jolly Cricketers. Griffin breaks into the tavern and grabs Marvel, but three customers fight Griffin and shoot at him, trying to prevent his departure. Griffin breaks free, but he is hurt in the scuffle.

Reunited Classmates

An injured Griffin sneaks into Doctor Kemp's house in Burdock, and hides in an upstairs bedroom. Although Griffin randomly chooses Kemp's house to hide in, it turns out he and Doctor Kemp attended university together. When unsuspecting Doctor Kemp retires for the night, he notices signs of an intruder, such as blood on the floor, a bloody doorknob, and bloody bed sheets in disarray. Griffin announces his presence and reveals he is Kemp's former classmate. Doctor Kemp is incredulous and frightened at first, but comes to accept that Griffin's invisibility is real. Earlier in the day Doctor Kemp, who had heard rumors of an invisible man, had given a lecture refuting the possibility of human invisibility. Griffin secures a promise from Kemp that he will not inform anyone he is there, and eventually goes to sleep.

After day breaks, Doctor Kemp reads the newspapers and learns more about Griffin's violent activities since leaving Iping. While Griffin is still sleeping, Doctor Kemp writes a note to Colonel Adye, chief of police of Burdock, informing him the Invisible Man has shown up at Kemp's house. After Griffin wakes up, they talk, and Griffin tells him how he became invisible and what he has been doing since then.

Backstory

Griffin explains he had developed an interest in physics, and while working as a college lecturer, conducted experiments on invisibility by bleaching blood and making a body neither refract nor absorb light; his idea was to lower the refractive index of a substance to that of air. He stole money from his father to fund his research. The money did not belong to Griffin's father, so he killed himself. Griffin is apathetic about his father's death.

In his backstory Griffin leaves the college and takes a room in a house on Great Portland Street in London, where he spends all his time on his research and has little to do with other people. For his first experiment he makes a piece of wool invisible. Next, he tries to turn his neighbor's cat invisible. He manages to make the cat invisible—except its eyes and claws. Soon after, the cat's owner, suspicious Griffin has something to do with her missing cat, gossips and raises complaints about Griffin. Griffin's landlord comes to look for the missing cat and complain about the noisy equipment in his room. Griffin, knowing he will likely be evicted, sends some of his possessions to a house with general delivery service for later pick up. He then takes drugs to make his blood invisible. After he conducts the final step of the process, he sleeps. His landlord, trying to break the door down, wakes Griffin. The process is successful; Griffin is now invisible, and very angry with his landlord. Griffin gathers a pile of combustible items in the center of his room, and slips out a window to watch as the landlord and his stepsons break the door down and futilely search the room. After they leave, Griffin steps back into the room. He sets fire to the gathered items and departs.

When Griffin goes out in public, he discovers the disadvantages of his invisibility. His body is jostled, stepped on, and poked by unsuspecting passersby. Naked, he is unprepared for the cold weather. And his bloody bare feet and sneezing threaten to give him away. Cold, tired, and hungry, he enters a large department store, Omniums, with the intention of stealing food and clothing, and sheltering for the night. Although he accomplishes his goals, he is discovered by the store personnel the next day and is unable to leave the store with his stolen clothing and items. Once again naked, he assaults several people while he makes his getaway. He later sneaks into a theatrical costume shop with the plan to steal a costume and money. The costume shop owner hears Griffin's footsteps and movements; armed with a revolver, the costumier searches for the intruder inside his house. Griffin overtakes him, pushes him down the stairs, and then ties him up before leaving with the man's money and a costume.

Reign of Terror

After telling Doctor Kemp his story, Griffin implores him to join him in his plan to conduct a "Reign of Terror," which includes taking over the town and exerting total control over its people. While Doctor Kemp keeps Griffin talking, vying for time, Colonel Adye arrives. But before Kemp and Adye can capture Griffin, he strips his clothes off and escapes the house. Kemp tells Adye what he has learned about Griffin—he is a madman and very dangerous—and provides details about Griffin's vulnerabilities. Kemp and Adye agree they must take action to protect the people throughout the region. They post a flier, warning the townsfolk and instructing them on how to limit Griffin's movement and access to food and weapons, and they set up a cordon to capture Griffin. They organize bloodhounds (dogs are able to smell Griffin) to track the Invisible Man.

Although the villagers throughout the region hunt for Griffin, he manages to avoid detection for the remainder of the day, and that night. His activity becomes known, however, when the beaten body of a villager—Mr. Wicksteed—is discovered, with a rod lying near his body. The narrator speculates Griffin had ripped a rod from a fence to use as a weapon, but not necessarily to use on Mr. Wicksteed. The unsuspecting Mr. Wicksteed likely saw the rod moving through the air of its own accord. Naturally curious, Wicksteed chased the rod, only to be beaten by invisible Griffin, who Wicksteed did not know was carrying the rod.

The next day Doctor Kemp receives a letter from Griffin, announcing the start of his reign of terror and his plan to kill Kemp for betraying him and as an example to the townspeople. Doctor Kemp decides to use himself as bait to draw Griffin to his house and capture him. He sends his housemaid out with letters for Colonel Adye. Griffin intercepts the housemaid and gains possession of the letters, but allows her to continue to the police station. Adye arrives, informs Kemp of the intercept, and arms himself with Kemp's revolver. When Griffin arrives at Kemp's house, he breaks every window. Adye goes outside to hunt Griffin, but is overtaken easily by Griffin, who wrestles the revolver away from Adye. Then Griffin threatens to shoot Adye unless he goes back to Kemp's house and gets him to open the door. Adye pretends to comply, but while walking toward the house he rushes Griffin. Griffin shoots him, and Adye dies on the front lawn.

After two policemen and the housemaid enter Kemp's house, Griffin destroys a door with an ax and gets in. Kemp and his housemaid escape out a window. A struggle ensues, and one of the policemen stabs Griffin with a poker. The naked and injured Griffin runs from the house. He chases after Kemp, who is running down the road into town. Kemp tries to find a hiding spot in Burdock but ends up near the end of the tramline. The townspeople watch as Kemp struggles with invisible Griffin, which to them looks like Kemp is struggling with air. Realizing Kemp is battling with the Invisible Man, a crowd of men rushes at Griffin and violently beats and kicks him. Griffin cries out for mercy, and Kemp tells everyone to back off. It is too late. Griffin is dead. The villagers watch as his body gradually becomes visible. They then cover his body and carry him into the Jolly Cricketers.

Epilogue

In the Epilogue, Marvel has set himself up as an innkeeper with the money Griffin stole. He has gained the respect of the villagers and regales anyone who is interested with stories about his experiences with the Invisible Man. Every Sunday he closes the bar and takes out the three diaries he stole from Griffin. He tries to decipher the notes and fantasizes about what he would do if he had the power of invisibility.

The Invisible Man Plot Diagram

Climax123456789Rising ActionFalling ActionResolutionIntroduction

Introduction

1 Griffin tries to undo his invisibility and keep it secret.

Rising Action

2 Griffin's invisibility is discovered, so he flees Iping.

3 Griffin takes Marvel hostage as his unwilling accomplice.

4 Griffin tells Kemp the story of his invisibility.

5 Kemp betrays Griffin by alerting the police of his presence.

6 Griffin escapes, initiating a huge manhunt to capture him.

Climax

7 Griffin begins his reign of terror by trying to kill Kemp.

Falling Action

8 A mob of men corner Griffin and viciously beat him.

Resolution

9 Griffin dies and his body becomes visible.

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