Literature: The Invisible Man

The Invisible Man is a novel by H. G. Wells, Trope Codifier for many Invisibility tropes. (Not to be confused with the novel Invisible Man (no definite article) by Ralph Ellison.)

The Invisible Man tells the story of an encounter the people of a sleepy town have with a mysterious newcomer who conceals himself entirely with bandages. The townspeople grow ever curious at the secretive, dangerously short-tempered man and his experiments. Frustrated by the inquisitive nature of the locals, the man goes into a rage, tears away his bandages, and reveals to the people that he is in fact completely invisible.

From this point on, the story follows the invisible man's trail of destruction and terror across the land as he attempts to either find a cure for his condition or take over the country (whichever is more likely).

It was made into a famous film version by Universal in 1933.

The novel provides examples of:

  • The Adjectival Man
  • Agony of the Feet: The people trying to catch Griffin try setting a trap by putting glass powder on the ground, because they know he is barefoot.
  • An Axe to Grind: At one point, Griffin fights a pair of constables with an axe.
  • Author Appeal: Griffin's invisibility came about not only through chemistry, but also through experiments with light and optics. Wells himself studied optics at some point in his life; the subject later comes up in The Time Machine.
  • Ax-Crazy
  • Badass Bystander: Several supporting characters actually prove to be quite resourceful, brave and dependable throughout the novel.
    • The bartender and customers at the Jolly Cricketers, who shelter a fleeing Marvel and save him from Griffin's wrath.
    • Two constables manage to go toe to toe with Griffin and successfully drive him off (despite him being armed with a gun and an axe!).
    • An entire Angry Mob of BadassBystanders assists Kemp in killing Griffin at the end.
  • Bandaged Face: Trope Codifier, if not Maker
  • By the Lights of Their Eyes: A variant: when Griffin makes a cat invisible, the process doesn't work on the tapetum lucidum, so the cat appears to be a pair of glowing eyes floating around.
  • Chemistry Can Do Anything
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Wells makes it as clear as he could at the time that Griffin has an absolutely filthy mouth. Take a drink every time we hear about his "imprecations."
  • Conspicuous Gloves: Gloves, together with the bandages, are the most conspicuous parts of Griffin's disguise.
  • Dancing Pants: May be the Ur Example.
  • Dirty Coward: Kemp, at least according to one of the constables assigned to protect him. When he runs away while they're fighting Griffin, "the second policeman's opinion of Kemp was terse and vivid."
  • Driven to Suicide: Griffin's father, after Griffin stole money from him to fund his work.
  • Eagle Land: Somewhat interestingly, the only customer in the Jolly Cricketers who carries a personal firearm is a visiting American.
  • Evil Albino: Griffin's albinism helps him become invisible, because he doesn't have to worry about pigment.
  • Funetik Aksent: Many of the characters' accents are written phonetically. One example being that Mrs. Hall calls her husband "Gearge" (George).
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Griffin. Lampshaded by Kemp after he finds that Griffin has overturned his nightstand:
    "Fit of temper," said the Invisible Man. "Forgot this arm; and it's sore."
    "You're rather liable to that sort of thing."
    "I am."
  • Harbinger of Impending Doom: Dr. Kemp at first ignores a terrified local who runs around yelling, "'Visible Man a-coming!" but soon learns better.
  • Improvised Weapon: Throughout the book, Griffin and his enemies all frequently make use of whatever is to hand in order to defend themselves or to attack.
  • Invisible Jerkass
  • Invisible Streaker
  • Invisibility
  • Laughing Mad
  • Lovable Coward: Thomas Marvel.
  • Mad Scientist: Although he really flips out when he turns invisible, Griffin's brain was clearly being consumed by his project long before that. When he returns to his hometown for his father's funeral, he wanders around in what would be now called a dissociative state.
  • Muggles Do It Better: Griffin's "reign of terror" is pretty short-lived, once the locals get to hunting him down.
  • Misapplied Phlebotinum: Though Griffin does state that he can turn cloth invisible, he never makes himself invisible clothes.
  • Naked People Trapped Outside: Although, granted, it isn't much of a problem for Griffin.
  • New Era Speech: It's a warning letter, not a speech, but the spirit is the same.
  • One Bullet Left
  • Police Are Useless: Averted. Jaffers the village constable in Iping is rather quick on the uptake, and Port Burdock's Colonel Adye is a pretty brave (if reckless) policeman as well. His two subordinate constables are also pretty badass, fending Griffin (who has a gun and an axe) off with fireplace pokers.
  • Professor Guinea Pig: Griffin takes his invisibility treatment after previously only trying it out on a cat. Granted, since he'd removed himself from the science world and needed an albino subject, his options were pretty limited, plus he was trying to escape his suspicious landlord.
  • Reality Ensues: This trope bites Griffin multiple times before he figures out the limitations of the invisibility potion.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning
  • Reign of Terror: Griffin says that's what he'll try to achieve in England (and the world, eventually) with those exact words.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Supernatural Powers!
  • Sinister Shades
  • Sunglasses at Night: Justified, since he's trying to hide the fact that his eyes are invisible.
  • Take Over the World
  • That Man Is Dead
  • This Was His True Form: Griffin becomes visible upon his death.
  • With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: Guess.
  • Villain Protagonist
  • Weird Moon: The third paragraph of Chapter 17 tells us that "The moon in its first quarter hung over the westward hill". Yet the first paragraph of Chapter 18, one to three hours after the above, says "Outside the night was very quiet and still, and the new moon was setting over the down." Apart from the fact that a new moon rises and sets with the sun — so if one is setting, it can't yet be night — there's simply no way that the moon can go from first-quarter to new in only a few hours.