Study Guide

The Invisible Man Identity

By H.G. Wells


Chapter 1

The stranger came early in February, one wintry day, through a biting wind and a driving snow, the last snowfall of the year, over the down, walking from Bramblehurst railway station, and carrying a little black portmanteau in his thickly gloved hand. (1.1)

It's important that the Invisible Man is only known as "the stranger" for a long time in this book. This quote gets extra points, though, because of how very specific it is about everything <em>except </em>who this guy is. There's information about when he came, where he came from, what he was carrying. Heck, we even hear that his hand is "thickly gloved." So who the heck is he?

Chapter 2

"You got a rum un up home!" said Teddy. (2.36)

Translation: there's a weird guy in your house. Teddy's remark shows us two things. First, any community is likely to react badly to a man without a clear identity (i.e. a strange dude). Second, we see how Teddy Henfrey and Mr. Hall can communicate in their own dialect. Part of their identity is where they're from, and their accent accentuates this (pun intended... and awesome).

Chapter 3

"That marn's a piebald, Teddy. Black here and white there—in patches. And he's ashamed of it. He's a kind of half-breed, and the colour's come off patchy instead of mixing. I've heard of such things before. And it's the common way with horses, as any one can see." (3.42)

Faced with a mystery (the Invisible Man has a black leg but a pink nose), Fearenside tries to figure out the Invisible Man's identity from what he knows. Since his occupation involves him working with a horse, he just goes with that. This theory tells us less about the Invisible Man's identity and more about Fearenside's identity. (It also provides a good example of how identity can bias judgment.)

Chapter 4

He was surprised to find that Mr. Hall did not know his guest's name. "He give a name," said Mrs. Hall—an assertion which was quite unfounded—"but I didn't rightly hear it." She thought it seemed so silly not to know the man's name. (4.9)

We don't know the Invisible Man's name until Chapter 7, which might strike us as a little strange. We're in good company, though, since it also strikes the people of Iping as a little strange. A name may be the most basic part of a person's identity: the fact that the Invisible Man doesn't have one makes him even more mysterious.

When questioned, she explained very carefully that he was an "experimental investigator," going gingerly over the syllables as one who dreads pitfalls. " (4.4)

By Chapter 4, we know a few tidbits about the Invisible Man's identity: he's not a nice guy and he's a scientist. By contrast, Mr. and Mrs. Hall seem genial enough and they're not-so-educated folk. Mrs. Hall knows (roughly) what an experimental investigator does, but it's clearly an unfamiliar occupation in this part of the country. Try telling someone in Miami that you're a cowboy by trade and they'll give you the same response.

Chapter 7

"And before I take any bills or get any breakfasts, or do any such things whatsoever, you got to tell me one or two things I don't understand, and what nobody don't understand, and what everybody is very anxious to understand. I want to know what you been doing t'my chair upstairs, and I want to know how 'tis your room was empty, and how you got in again." (7.26)

Mrs. Hall and the Invisible Man had a perfectly fine relationship at first, since it was just commercial: he bought what she sold. But in a small village, that relationship doesn't seem to be enough. In Iping, where everyone knows everything about everyone else, the Invisible Man's mysterious identity has become a problem. So here he is, trying to pay her, but she's demanding to know more about his identity.

The Invisible Man (a.k.a. Griffin, the Stranger)

"The fact is, I'm all here—head, hands, legs, and all the rest of it, but it happens I'm invisible. It's a confounded nuisance, but I am. That's no reason why I should be poked to pieces by every stupid bumpkin in Iping, is it?" (7.50)

The Invisible Man is being attacked by the people of Iping and has just agreed to surrender to the police. (Turns out he's lying, by the way, which also shows us a lot about him.) When he finally reveals his identity, he also takes the opportunity to distance himself even more from the villagers by calling them bumpkins. This guy <em>really</em> doesn't want to make friends.

Chapter 12

They appear to have jumped to the impossible conclusion that this was the Invisible Man suddenly become visible, and set off at once along the lane in pursuit. (12.38)

The villagers see a stranger and automatically assume it's the Invisible Man (even though this guy is pretty visible). To them, not having an identity is identity enough – they're probably going to be nervous for a while about anyone who's not one of them.

Chapter 17

"Griffin," answered the Voice. "A younger student than you were, almost an albino, six feet high, and broad, with a pink and white face and red eyes, who won the medal for chemistry." (17.39)

When Griffin tries to get Kemp to recognize him, he gives a short description of himself. This is the first time we get an image of what Griffin really looks like (when he's not invisible, that is). There's actually some important info here that gets passed over very quickly. For example, Griffin describes himself as a pretty big guy (which helps explain how much damage he causes – he's strong). We also learn that he's "almost an albino," which will come up again when he dies. And of course, Griffin doesn't forget to mention that he's academically awesome, too.

Chapter 28

When at last the crowd made way for Kemp to stand erect, there lay, naked and pitiful on the ground, the bruised and broken body of a young man about thirty. His hair and brow were white—not grey with age, but white with the whiteness of albinism—and his eyes were like garnets. His hands were clenched, his eyes wide open, and his expression was one of anger and dismay.

"Cover his face!" said a man. (28.28-9)

When the Invisible Man dies, the strangers in Burdock get their first look at him, and they are not happy with what they see. (We wonder how the Iping villagers would feel, since they knew him a little better.) Is this image of the dead albino the final identity of Griffin? Is this how we want to remember him? Angry and dismayed? And how does this revelation of what he looked like add to his identity?