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A thought provoking tale, which is a parable
on January 13, 2011
Many books about an invisible man tantalize readers with adventures where an invisible man takes immoral advantage of other people, sexually and financially. An example is the ancient fable of a man who obtains a magic ring that makes him invisible. He enters the palace of the king, kills the king, and takes his wife, kingdom, and gold. Wells turns the tale in an opposite direction. He details the difficulties that an invisible man would face in society.
The invisible man in Wells' story, Griffin, needs to find the formula and then the chemicals to restore himself to visibility. While invisible, he needs to cover himself entirely from his hair to his toes; otherwise people would realize that he was invisible, fear and mistreat him. This causes many difficulties. When he wants to go out without being seen, for example, he needs to remove all of his cloths; and since it is winter, he catches a cold, coughs and sneezes; and walking without shoes, he cuts his feet, bleeds and leaves tracks.
Griffin had robbed his father of money to finance his discovery of invisibility, but is now, books and go out to find the chemicals that are required to restore him to visibility. He resorts to theft again and is discovered because of his bloody foot prints and his sneezes. The police and town people pursue him determined to kill him. He persuades a tramp to help him. Since he cannot carry his scientific books, for people would see the apparently floating books and know that he is carrying them, he gives them to the tramp to carry, but the tramp runs away with them. He goes to a friend from his school days who seems to sympathize with him, but the friend thinks that Griffin is insane and calls the police.
Readers will puzzle over the question "Has Griffin become crazy?" and answer it to their satisfaction. In reading the gripping tale, they will have to decide whether the many deaths in the story can be blamed on Griffin. Also, does a great discovery justify theft? They will be curious what happens to him and to the tramp. They may also ask, "Is Wells offering us a parable and, if so, what is the message?"