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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

The Invisible Man, film version.

Book Review
The Invisible Man
by H.G. Wells
p. 1897

  Investigating the origins of art genres is always worthwhile. Considering how important genre and classification are in any field of art criticism, it behooves an interested individual to have an idea of how genres start and be familiar with Artists who themselves create genres.  You might think of Pablo Picasso or Jackson Pollock in the field of painting. And while you might argue that H.G. Wells didn't invent science fiction, he is almost certainly responsible for the creation of the genre osf fiction that we today refer to as "science fiction."   His best known stories involve a plot that revolves around a perhaps plausible scientific innovation whose presence triggers whatever story he is going to tell.

 Here, it is the invention by the invisible man himself, called Griffin, of a method to render human substance transparent by means of a poorly described chemical reaction.  The Invisible Man often reads like a variation on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, except Griffin is a permanent Mr. Hyde.  The Invisible Man is obviously considered a classic because of its enduring popularity because the plot mechanics are very awkward.

  The Invisible Man starts with Griffin arriving at a provincial inn.  He is soon discovered and has to flee the town.  He goes to Port Burdock and tells his story in a long winded flashback to his former classmate Dr. Kemp.  The story then returns to the present and Griffin is hunted and captured, returning to his visible self.

 During the lengthy mid novella flashback, it becomes clear that Griffin is a psycho- he blows up the house of his landlord, violently assaults children for no reason and is quick to administer  an invisible beating.  Griffin is not a sympathetic character struggling with a dual identity, he is a "monster" in the vein of Dracula.   This creation of unsympathetic/monstrous villains is a key development in genre fiction, and is an approach that novels like The Invisible Man (and Dracula) passed straight through to Hollywood, where the "movie villain" convention became firmly established as a character archetype. 

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