The Invisible Man
by H.G. Wells
The Invisible Man Theme of Betrayal
In The Invisible Man, betrayal is always tied up with priorities. Let us explain: the Invisible Man doesn't steal from his dad just to be mean. He steals because he cares more about his scientific experiments than anything else (including his family). On the same token, we expect someone to keep their friend's secrets, but when Griffin outlines his supervillain plan to take over England, Kemp decides that he has a more important priority than loyalty to his friend: protecting his country and neighbors. So whenever we see a betrayal – whether of another character or of a principle – we have to ask: what does this show us about the betrayer's priorities?
Questions About Betrayal
- Are you shocked by Griffin's betrayal of his father or Kemp's betrayal of Griffin? Do you feel like these betrayals are justified?
- The narrator seems to sympathize with Griffin after he is betrayed by Kemp. How does that affect your reading of the story?
- Do you think Griffin stealing from the Buntings is a betrayal? Can you betray someone you don't know?
- A lot of the Invisible Man's problems come from his inability to stay calm. Could we say that his temper betrays him? Is it possible to betray oneself? Similarly, is it possible to be betrayed by inanimate objects? (For instance, the Invisible Man speaks of being "betrayed" by the snow [22.1].)
Chew on This
The characters in The Invisible Man betray each other out of pure selfishness.
Betrayal is evenly distributed among the characters in The Invisible Man to remind us that we're all potential betrayers.