H.G. Wells – “The Invisible Man” (1897)

“This is the common refrain of evil: the desire for power, combined with hubris, with domination as the goal. (…) Playground bullies and national tyrants have these elements in common — the only distinction is degree.”

Marc T. Newman

What would a man do if given great power and no reason to fear being caught and punished? That is the moral question HG Wells asks in his novel, inspired by the Ring of Gyges myth. We try to feel sympathy for Griffin, but his lust for power makes him irredeemable. The sociopathic scientist loses himself (quite literally) in his ambition to become invisible, and afterwards, in his ambition to “bring terror to the world.” It’s quite interesting to observe the dissolution of self as a psychological parallel to the actual invisibility. Griffin first gives in to the frankensteinian ambition to create something extraordinary, to be the first to make a human being invisible, and then, to the mad hunger for absolute power, wanting to begin a “Reign of Terror.”

Griffin first sets out to execute the “plans of all the wild and wonderful things [he] had now impunity to do,” but soon discovers that the invisibility “is only good in two cases: It’s useful in getting away, it’s useful in approaching. It’s particularly useful, therefore, in killing.” Given great power, Griffin only thinks of domination over the “lesser” people. He could have been the greatest scientist that ever lived. Instead, he chooses to be a tyrant. And, as such, he meets an end befitting to tyrants: He is killed (symbolically, maybe) not by figures of authority, not by the police, but by common people, by working-class men.

The “overman” had failed the moral test.

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Works cited:

 1. Newman, Marc T. – The Avengers and Our Fascination with Saviors (http://www.movieministry.com/movie_reviews/articles.php?articles=&article_view=160)

 2. Wells, H.G. – The Invisible Man (http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/w/wells/hg/w45in/index.html)


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