The Invisible Man Allusions & Cultural References
When authors refer to other great works, people, and events, it’s usually not accidental. Put on your super-sleuth hat and figure out why.
Oh, the Places Wells Goes
- Bramblehurst (1.1) is a fictional town, possibly based on Midhurst in west Sussex (where Wells worked as a teacher).
- Iping (1.2) is a real village a few miles northwest of Midhurst.
- Great Portland Street (20) is a real street in London, running north from Oxford St. to Euston Rd.
- Port Stowe (14) is not a real town, but possibly based on Portsmouth.
- Burdock (14.72) is not a real town, but possibly based on Southsea.
- Mudie's (21.7) is a lending library in New Oxford Street.
- Museum (21.7) is probably the British Museum, founded in 1753.
- Omniums (22.3) is a fictional department store, though around this time real department stores were opening in England.
- Empire Music 'all (Epilogue.2) is the Empire Theatre in Leicester Square, a prominent theater from 1877 to 1927.
Literary and Artistic References
- Vox et (9.46) is Marvel's attempt to say "Vox et praeterea nihil," which in Latin means "voice and nothing more." It's from Plutarch's Moralia.
- "Subsequent proceedings interested him no more" (10.8) is a quote from the humorous poem "The Society upon the Stanislaus" by Bret Harte, an American writer.
- West Surrey Gazette (12.44) is a fictional newspaper.
- "Crusoe's solitary discovery" (21.15) refers to Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe (1719), where Crusoe thinks he's alone on an island but finds a footprint that isn't his.
- "Dust to dust, earth to earth" (22.8) is from the burial service for the Book of Common Prayer.
- Sidney Cooper (27.76) was a landscape painter (1803-1902).
- Whitsuntide (4.9) is the seventh Sunday after Easter.
- Burton (16.1) is beer or ale from Burton-on-Trent.
- Louis Quatorze (23.24) refers to Louis XIV of France and styles associated with him and his time period.
- "Treasure trove" (Epilogue.2) refers to a British law that says that unclaimed treasure (say, a buried pile of Roman gold coins) was the property of the crown, though the discoverer would get some reward.
- "Man with the one talent" (4.6) refers to Matthew 25:15, called "The parable of the talents."
- Babel (7.32) refers to unintelligible sounds, and alludes to the story of the tower of Babel from Genesis 11.
- Delilah (23.47) is a reference to the Biblical story of Samson (Judges 16). Delilah is the betrayer of Samson.
- Ammonite (4.13) refers to a fossil shell, which Bunting uses here as a paperweight (possibly showing that he's not really scientific).
- "Specific gravity of their beer" (6.1) is the measure of beer's density compared to water. In this case, Mr. and Mrs. Hall are watering down their beer, and covering the taste by adding sarsaparilla.
- Nauplii and tornarias (18.15) are two types of nearly invisible ocean life. Nauplii are the larvae of crabs and other crustaceans; tornarias are a stage of the sea-acorn.
- Roentgen vibrations (20.11) means X-rays; since they were discovered by William Konrad Roentgen (1845-1923) in 1895, some people call them Roentgen rays.
- The tapetum (20.18) is the part of the cat's eyes that reflects light (and helps them see in low light).
- Chloroform (20.21) is an anesthetic that was first used in 1847 (and isn't really used anymore).
- Strychnine (20.33) is used here in a small dose to stimulate Griffin, but is usually used as a poison.
- Benzoline (23.34) is the brand name for a solvent made from petroleum and used to remove stains.
- "Hex, little two up in the air, cross and a fiddle-de-dee" (Epilogue.7) is Marvel's attempt to make out Griffin's chemical formula (which might be in code, as he tells Kemp [20.11]).
- "Ordinary bicycles" (7.4) probably refers to a bicycle like the old-style "penny farthing" bikes, named for the fact that one wheel is bigger than the other, just like penny and farthing coins.
- Jubilee (7.4) refers to the 1887 Golden Jubilee, the fiftieth anniversary of when Queen Victoria was named Queen.
- London and County Banking Company (14.71) was an actual bank founded in 1836 (though they called it the Surrey Kent and Sussex Banking Company until 1839).
- Royal Society (15.1) refers to the Royal Society of London for Promoting Natural Knowledge, which was scientific society founded in 1662 by Charles II.
- St James's Gazette (18.21) is a real London newspaper.
- Salvation Army (21.9) was founded by William Booth (1829-1912) in 1878, and was dedicated to relieving poverty, unemployment, and homelessness.
- Reign of Terror (24.28) may allude to the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution.
- Cobbett (Epilogue.5) refers to William Cobbett, a journalist who wrote all about his travels through England.
Strange British Expressions
- "I'm out of frocks" (16.28) means "I'm not a child," since children under the age of five wore frocks.
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