Study Guide

The Invisible Man Science

By H.G. Wells

Science

Chapter 2
The Invisible Man (a.k.a. Griffin, the Stranger)

"I should explain," he added, "what I was really too cold and fatigued to do before, that I am an experimental investigator."

"Indeed, sir," said Mrs. Hall, much impressed. (2.17-18)

Mrs. Hall doesn't really understand the science that the Invisible Man is doing, but she's still impressed by it. In The Invisible Man, non-scientists are sometimes suspicious of scientists and sometimes impressed by them. Where do you see this difference?

Chapter 3

There were a couple of trunks indeed, such as a rational man might need, but in addition there were a box of books—big, fat books, of which some were just in an incomprehensible handwriting—and a dozen or more crates, boxes, and cases, containing objects packed in straw, as it seemed to Hall, tugging with a casual curiosity at the straw—glass bottles. (3.1)

The scientists in this book tend to have a bunch of stuff for science – microscopes and science journals and bottles (see 3.9, 15.1). We like this quote because it reminds us of the material aspect of science; it's not just about thinking, it actually involves experimenting on stuff.

Chapter 4

Cuss, the general practitioner, was devoured by curiosity. The bandages excited his professional interest, the report of the thousand and one bottles aroused his jealous regard. (4.9)

Here's yet another type of reaction to science: professional jealousy. Cuss is a "general practitioner," so he's the village doctor. Still, he's not a researcher like Griffin (and possibly not as educated as Griffin or Kemp), and so he holds a "jealous regard" for all the equipment Griffin has. Through these characters, Iping is showing us a pretty wide range of responses to scientific research.

Chapter 15

[T]he work he was upon would earn him, he hoped, the fellowship of the Royal Society, so highly did he think of it. (15.1)

The scientific world is a community, but there are different levels and classes within that community. On one level, there's Cuss (who knows some science but isn't a researcher). On another level, there's Kemp and Griffin (researchers). And on the top are the elite scientists who belong to the Royal Society. Kemp's interest in the Royal Society reminds us that science is also a community.

Chapter 17

Dr. Kemp's scientific pursuits have made him a very observant man (17.10)

Science has some benefits in this book. For instance, practicing science has turned Dr. Kemp into a superhero. Well, not exactly a superhero, but it has improved his observational skills, just like Batman. Come to think of it, have you ever seen Batman and Kemp in the same room?

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

"And you know the knavish system of the scientific world. I simply would not publish, and let him share my credit." (19.33)

This is another reminder that science is a community, with its own rules and traditions. These are some of the traditions that drive Griffin to do what he does (hide his research, test on himself, etc.). Turns out the Invisible Man is a bad member of both the scientific and the non-scientific communities. Looks like you're 0 for 2, Griff.

"In the books—the books that tramp has hidden—there are marvels, miracles!" (19.22)

Both Griffin and the narrator remark that Griffin's books contain wonders. That's pretty serious language that doesn't have a lot of ambiguity. It reminds us, too, how awe-inspiring science can be, both to scientists and non-scientists alike. We mean, come on, seedless grapes? Amazing!

"But consider, visibility depends on the action of the visible bodies on light." (19.24)

Although we're tempted, we're not going to quote this whole chapter. Here, Griffin explains all about the science of optics and how he made himself invisible. If you ever wanted to know anything about refractive values, this is for you. Wells could have probably left this chapter out, especially because it slows down the story a bit. So why put in this long scientific explanation? How does it change the way you read this story?

Chapter 20

"[...] but she woke while she was still misty, and miaowed dismally, and someone came knocking. It was an old woman from downstairs, who suspected me of vivisecting." (20.21)

Vivisection was a real hot topic in England in the nineteenth century. (Wells may have written an entire book about it, actually: check out <em>The Island of Dr. Moreau</em>.) In <em>The Invisible Man</em>, it serves to raise questions about ethics in science. For instance, Griffin is a bad scientist (he doesn't publish his work), but he's also an unethical scientist (in that he does strange experiments on living creatures). Do you think Wells is trying to make a point here?

Epilogue

His brows are knit and his lips move painfully. "Hex, little two up in the air, cross and a fiddle-de-dee. Lord! what a one he was for intellect!" (Epilogue.7)

After Kemp and Griffin go on about science for the whole book, <em>The Invisible Man </em>ends with someone who doesn't understand science at all. But you'll notice that even though Griffin has shown himself to be off his rocker, Marvel still thinks that he's something of a scientific genius. Being a good scientist and being a good person clearly aren't one and the same.