“Iping? Where in the world is Iping?”
Avid readers of “famous scientific fantasies” will most likely know what novel I would like you to journey through with me today. The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells is a different read than Jane Eyre, through which we made our sojourn yesterday. Published in 1897, Wells toyed with scientific advancement while also providing a social commentary.
There will be no synopsis today. I apologize for this, but from my experience with the novel, it is best read with no foreknowledge of the plot. The Invisible Man himself leaves the reader in suspense for many pages before he reveals his past, present, and plans for the future.
The Invisible Man presents a variety of themes, isolation, power, identity, but the one about which I am most interested in speaking is power. My professor for the British Authors course (yes, we’re still dealing with books I read there) that took this novel spent almost an entire class period on the idea of powers, specifically superpowers.
He presented us with the choice of invisibility or flight. It’s not a new question, or a difficult one for many people. The vast majority of my classmates chose flight. Our reasoning? We couldn’t think of any reason to use invisibility that wasn’t immoral.
Think about it. What can you do when you’re invisible that you can’t do when you’re visible? We made a list: eavesdrop, watch people (through their windows if you’re really messed up), steal, and sneak into places you aren’t supposed to be, i.e. movies, museums, high security buildings. What our professor pointed out to us was that some people, even some in our class, would choose invisibility if the actions associated with it were not socially unacceptable.
His source was a radio broadcast. In Act One, John Hodgman speaks about this debate. It is proposed that everyone would choose invisibility if they were honest with themselves and those around them. Is he right? Maybe. The idea of invisibility appeals to me slightly, maybe because I am quite the Harry Potter fan. I’ve always wanted my own invisibility cloak. (If only they didn’t cost $343.96 on sale.)
Was H.G. Wells successful in portrayed the appeal of power? I would say yes. The struggle of what to do with his invisibility is evident in the main character as he tries to find his place in the world. Invisibility gives him a thirst for power, as well as a bevy of other desires. I would not recommend this novel to everyone. The Invisible Man is well-written, and I appreciated the content, but I wouldn’t put it on my list of favorites. If you’re curious, I encourage you to give it a try. It’s not a long read, but it is thought-provoking.