Study Guide

The Invisible Man Power

By H.G. Wells

Power

Chapter 1

Millie, her lymphatic aid, had been brisked up a bit by a few deftly chosen expressions of contempt (1.3)

Our first example of power in this book is a boss exercising power over an employee. Here, Mrs. Hall wants Millie to speed up her work. How does she do this?: "by a few deftly chosen expressions of contempt." Whew, we all know the expressions she's talking about – bosses have those looks nailed. Power can be expressed in so many different ways.

Chapter 4

There were a number of skirmishes with Mrs. Hall on matters of domestic discipline, but in every case until late April, when the first signs of penury began, he over-rode her by the easy expedient of an extra payment. (4.1)

Who has the power here, Mrs. Hall or the Invisible Man? The owner or the customer?

Chapter 9

"An invisible man is a man of power." He stopped for a moment to sneeze violently. (9.70)

The narrator really wants us to get the idea that the Invisible Man may not be as powerful as he says he is. Cutting the moment with an ill-timed sneeze makes the point beautifully. Hey, everyone gets allergies.

Chapter 16

"Draw the bolts," said the man with the black beard, "and if he comes—" He showed a revolver in his hand.

"That won't do," said the policeman; "that's murder." (16.17-8)

Here's a traditional symbol of power: the gun. (Actually you could probably write an interesting paper on all the times guns come up in this book, what with this gun, the costume-shop owner's gun, and Kemp's gun that the Invisible Man takes.) But notice that as soon as the man with the black beard claims some power, the policeman shoots him down with yet another form of power: the law (which would declare shooting a man as an act of murder). He (almost) fought the law and the law won.

Chapter 19
The Invisible Man (a.k.a. Griffin, the Stranger)

"And I beheld, unclouded by doubt, a magnificent vision of all that invisibility might mean to a man—the mystery, the power, the freedom. Drawbacks I saw none." (19.38)

Sometimes power is blinding. Period. Well, period plus one other thing. Notice the three benefits he mentions: "the mystery, the power, the freedom." Is he saying that power and freedom go together? What do you think?

Chapter 20
The Invisible Man (a.k.a. Griffin, the Stranger)

"I did not know what he would do, nor even what he had the power to do." (20.39)

Here, the Invisible Man tells Kemp about his experience in London with his landlord. In this part of the never-ending story, the Invisible Man is worried that the landlord might have some power over him. But the (legal) power that the landlord has is very different from the (illegal) power that the IM has (post-invisibility).

Chapter 26

In the night, he must have eaten and slept; for in the morning he was himself again, active, powerful, angry, and malignant, prepared for his last great struggle against the world. (26.12)

We often think of the Invisible Man's power as being almost supernatural, but we're often reminded that his power requires some very natural things (like, say, science equipment). In this case, it doesn't matter if he's invisible; what matters is that he slept and ate. Simple as that.

Kemp's proclamation—signed indeed by Adye—was posted over almost the whole district by four or five o'clock in the afternoon. (26.4)

Here's another way that visible people have power: they can organize against the single Invisible Man who threatens them. We like that this quote combines the power of science and knowledge (Kemp) with the power of the police (Adye). Kemp knows what to do and tells people, but the proclamation only has power because the police back it. Way to go, po-po.

Chapter 28
Dr. Kemp

Kemp suddenly grasped the altered condition of the chase. He stopped, and looked round, panting. "He's close here!" he cried. "Form a line across—" (28.12)

One of the reasons why we're interested in power in this book is because it seems to shift so easily. The Invisible Man is a powerless oppressed student-teacher. Then he's a powerful arsonist. Then he's powerless in the London crowds. Then…well, you get the point. Here, the Invisible Man goes from hunting Kemp (powerful) to being hunted by the people (powerless). Power isn't very stable, it seems.

Epilogue

So he lapses into a dream, the undying wonderful dream of his life. (Epilogue.11)

The last paragraph of the book shows Marvel thinking over what he would do if he were invisible. It raises the question: what would <em>you</em> do if you had the power of invisibility?

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