Study Guide

The Invisible Man Awe and Amazement

By H.G. Wells

Awe and Amazement

Chapter 4

His irritability, though it might have been comprehensible to an urban brain-worker, was an amazing thing to these quiet Sussex villagers. (4.8)

What amazes the Iping villagers might be pretty ordinary to most people. So far, amazement has to do with relatively normal things: weird hair, acts like city-folk, you know – the usual.

It was inevitable that a person of so remarkable an appearance and bearing should form a frequent topic in such a village as Iping. (4.4)

Even before he's revealed as the Invisible Man, the stranger is so strange that he's a source of amazement. Amazement can lead to curiosity and, in this case, gossip. This is an example of people being amazed by relatively regular things – that is, compared to an invisible man, a strange visitor is small potatoes.

"There wasn't anything there!" said Cuss, his voice running up into a shriek at the "there." (4.27)

After Wells has spent some time showing us some amazement over relatively normal things, he hits us with this big shock: dude's invisible. Notice that Cuss's amazement starts to look a bit like hysteria at the end there, as he starts to shriek.

Chapter 5

Daylight found the vicar and his wife, a quaintly-costumed little couple, still marvelling about on their own ground floor by the unnecessary light of a guttering candle. (5.14)

Bunting and his wife are so shocked by the invisible robber that they forget to extinguish the candle when the sun comes up.

Chapter 6

"'Tas sperits," said Mrs. Hall. "I know 'tas sperits. I've read in papers of en. Tables and chairs leaping and dancing." (6.13)

When Mrs. Hall sees something amazing that she can't explain (moving furniture), she goes to an explanation that she's familiar with (ghosts). Now, that may strike us as funny because ghosts are a supernatural explanation, too, but at least it's an explanation that she's familiar with – she read about them in the papers, after all.

Chapter 7

It was worse than anything. Mrs. Hall, standing open-mouthed and horror-struck, shrieked at what she saw, and made for the door of the house. Everyone began to move. They were prepared for scars, disfigurements, tangible horrors, but nothing! (7.30)

If only it were ghosts! The villagers were expecting something bad, but what they find is something they never could have imagined.

For a space people stood amazed and gesticulating, and then came panic, and scattered them abroad through the village as a gust scatters dead leaves. (7.70)

Amazement in <em>The Invisible Man </em>is linked to both confusion and fear, and here, we get both reactions. First, they're stunned, and second, they're panicked. Neither reaction really helps, though: these people need to work on their problem-focused coping.

Chapter 9

He was irradiated by the dawn of a great amazement. (9.9)

When Marvel is first introduced to the Invisible Man, he just flat out doesn't believe it. Much like Mrs. Hall thinking that there are ghosts, Marvel goes to explanations he's already familiar with (he's drunk, he's hallucinating). What's different here, though, is that amazement has a positive meaning: it is linked with "the dawn" and "irradiated," as if amazement was related to enlightenment. (Note: "irradiated" in Wells' time wouldn't have meant anything bad; this was before we associated it with nuclear radiation.) Way to go, Invisible Man.

Chapter 17

All men, however highly educated, retain some superstitious inklings. The feeling that is called "eerie" came upon him. (17.14)

Even Kemp, scientist extraordinaire, can be amazed. Like many other characters, Kemp will react to this amazement first by panicking. So what does it say about Kemp – or about all humans – if there's no way to get rid of superstitious amazement? Is there any way to deal with life without "eerie" feelings? Or are we doomed to freeze and/or to panic when we see something amazing?

Chapter 26

In the morning he had still been simply a legend, a terror; in the afternoon, by virtue chiefly of Kemp's drily worded proclamation, he was presented as a tangible antagonist, to be wounded, captured, or overcome (26.3)

When people don't know what the Invisible Man is, he's a source of terror and amazement. Once they know that he's just a man, people realize that he can be dealt with. It seems like the unknown is the biggest source of awe.