The Invisible Man Study Guide

CHAPTER 19: Certain First Principles

Griffin explains how he became invisible. He had been a medical student, but had dropped medicine and taken up physics. He discovered a formula of pigments that lowers the refractive index of a substance, allowing light to pass through it rather than being reflected or refracted. After experimenting with pigments for three years, he came upon the secret whereby animal tissue could be rendered transparent. He was continuously trying to hide his work from another professor. He was finally brought to a halt in his experimenting by a lack of funds, a problem he solved by robbing his own father. Because the money did not belong to him, his father shot himself.


Notes - From this chapter through XXIII, the point of view changes as Griffin tells his own story. He explains how he became invisible and tells the story up to the time when he had first entered the Coach & Horses. He explains his use of and contempt for Marvel, justifying his own behavior as necessary to his survival.

CHAPTER 20: Doctor Kemp’s Visitor

Griffin explains how he had found lodging in a boarding house on Great Portland Street. After his father’s funeral, he went to his apartment to continue with his experiments. He successfully made a piece of cloth disappear, then he tried his process on a stray cat. The cat was not entirely successful, as the animal’s eyes and claws never completely disappeared.

Later the next day he had a minor altercation with the landlord who brought reports of Griffin tormenting a cat in the night. The landlord wanted to know what Griffin was doing in the room and what all the paraphernalia was for. The two argued and Griffin shoved the landlord out of the room. Griffin knew he would have to act quickly, so he made arrangements to have his belongings stored, then he drank some of his own potion. In the evening the landlord returned with an ejection notice, but was too terrified at the stone white face of Griffin to serve it. In spite of extreme illness and pain, Griffin finished his treatment and watched himself gradually disappear.

In the morning, the landlord, his stepsons and the elderly neighbor lady who had complained about the cat enter Griffin’s apartment and are astonished to see no one. A day later, afraid, lest his equipment reveal too much information, Griffin smashes the items and sets fire to the house. Believing that he has covered his tracks with impunity, he begins to imagine all sorts of “wild and wonderful” things he will be able to do under the cover of invisibility.

Notes - Griffin’s explanations are completely absent of any sense of humanity or conscience. His intentions suggest anarchy or lawlessness resulting from an absence of social restriction. Killing his own father seems to have killed his conscience, and the novelty of invisibility highlights his immaturity and seems to divorce him from a normal sense of responsibility.

CHAPTER 21: In Oxford Street

Griffin continues to explain his experiences with invisibility. He soon discovered that being invisible had as many drawbacks as advantages. People ran into him and stepped on him. He had to be continually on guard as to the movements and positions of others in order to avoid accidental contact. To make matters worse, although people could not see him, dogs could detect him with their keen sense of smell. As he had to remain naked, he was soon uncomfortable. Also, he could not eat, as food was visible until it was fully assimilated into his system.

At one point, he had run up the steps of a house in order to avoid a unit of a marching Salvation Army band. While he waited, two youngsters spotted the prints of his bare feet in the mud. Soon a crowd of people had gathered to look at the “ghost prints.” He leapt over the railing and ran through a bunch of back roads to avoid the press. Fortunately for him, his escape at that time was aided with the distraction created by conflagration engulfing his former dwelling.

Notes - Griffin’s initial error was that he became so obsessed with a single scientific notion that he failed to take consequences into consideration. No doubt, he was not concerned about people reacting to him as though he were some kind of mutation or monster. As an albino human, he was already a marginalized individual who did not fit into ordinary society. College was the perfect place for him, but he was so concerned about the possibility of any one getting credit for his discovery that he failed to take advantage of collaboration and more mature knowledge that he might have had access to.

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Ruff, Dr. Karen. "TheBestNotes on The Invisible Man". TheBestNotes.com. . 09 May 2017
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