Blogging The Invisible Man: Part 1 (Chapters I-VII)Sparkler Post
‘Tis a dark and stormy afternoon… A great gruff man with a covered face shows up at your door. He demands a room and a cart for his luggage full of hundreds of strange bottles, and then he is not to be disturbed under threat of… he never quite says what.
What do you do?
Set him up with a room, of course! And give him lunch. "A perfectly natural reaction," says Janny Hall, the owner of the Coach and Horses, the best inn in Iping.
"A perfectly good way to start a horror film," says Jedi.
Of course, the bundled-up stranger is the titular Invisible Man, so we can't exactly turn him away when he comes knocking at the plot-ish door. Not that anyone else knows who he is yet.
Think of the people of Iping as the village chorus in Belle: they’re bored, they like to gossip about the weird newcomer in town who sits in his room all day and plays with bottles full of Vaguley Ominous Science. And later, they have a witch hunt for said Visitor because they perceive him to be more than a little bit sinister.
<Apparently SparklerPosts can't GIF. That makes me sad, becaues I had a few coordinating GIFs planned. So pretend that there's a GIF of all the cartoon French people saying "Bonjour!" from Disney's animated Beauty and the Beast>
Now, imagine that scenario, and then make it so that the villagers are justified in being scared out of their wits by this guy. And there’s no Gaston, thankfully. And there’s no brilliant daughter to save the day, which might have made the whole book a lot better, come to think of it. Oh, and they’re not French; they are very, very English.
The most notable of the Iping Cast:
- Janny Hall: she runs the local inn, the Coach and Horses, and is the one to let the Invisible Man take lodging and deals most with him (ie. bringing him his meals and otherwise disturbing him). She eventually becomes suspicious of him when he refuses to chat with her and stops paying for his rooms.
- Teddy Henfrey: the resident clockmaker, and the second person in Iping to become aquainted with a nuisance to the Visitor. Mrs Hall lets him into the parlour where the Invisible Man is sitting, and he pretends to fix the clock in an attempt to start up conversation. The ploy fails. Awkward ensues, and I sympathize.
- George Hall: helps his wife run The Coach and Horses. He’s immediately suspicious of the Visitor, especially when the furniture in the Visitor's room starts moving by itself. (More Beauty and the Beast parallels!)
- Dr. Cuss: He’s the first of the townspeople to challenge and provoke the Invisible Man. Upon hearing that said Visitor is a man of science, Dr. Cuss asks him to donate to the nurse’s fund. The Invisible Man pretends that his ungloved hand is perfectly visible and pinches Dr Cuss' nose. Cue Cuss running to his bestie,
- Vicar Bunting: another victim of the Invisible Man. The Reverend and his wife are robbed when the Visitor runds out of money to pay for his room at the inn.
- Bobby Jaffers: a constable who is called to arrest The Invisible Man. He’s quite a determined fellow, ready to nab him even after the Big Invisibility Reveal. Jaffers is quickly challenged to a duel/slapped in the face with the Invisible Man's glove, and then chocked unconscious by the Invisible Man on his escape.
^This cast list? It’s pretty unique for Wells.
Here’s why: he’s super duper fond of Scientists, with a Capital S. He thinks they’re brilliant. He thinks they should run the world. He thinks that the little people shouldn’t be trusted with things like Democracy because that’s a splendid way to put silly ideas into action or avoid committing to action. A common motif in his work is giving the Scientists or Otherwise Enlightened characters a chance to talk about their ideal, extraterrestrial, or otherwise scifi non-contemporary government systems.
By naming many of the townspeople, he’s making them important—and by putting the first seven chapters in their voices, he’s making them intelligent and declaring them worthy of telling this Important Story. By not using a given scientist's first-person narrative voice, a reader who is familiar with Wells should know that Something is Rotten in Iping.
A hypothesis: it's the weirdo in the blue glasses and bandages covering his entire head
Subsequent hypotheses for why the Mysterious (Invisible) Man is covered up:
- He’s seriously injured.
- He has vitiligo or is mixed-race, and he's self conscious about it.
- He’s the Bogeyman.
Which are all rather decent theories for a guy who:
- Never takes his coat off, even indoors.
- Eats and smokes with a cloth napkin in front of his face.
- When his bandages or clothing get ripped, his “skin” is so dark it’s black (spoiler alert: that’s not his skin), but his nose is light pink (spoiler alert: that’s not his nose).
- Is nameless. He has no money or apparent source of income. He does weird things with books and chemicals, and everyone knows that too much Knowledge leads to the Dark Dide.
Not to mention that there’s some strange stuff going on in town, such as the self-throwing furniture incident and the theft at the vicarage, and no one can find the culprit. The Vicar swears that the thief was invisible. What nonsense! That can't be true!
<Insert a GIF of Hugh Laurie shrugging because he's just as confused as we are.>
And then, the Visitor… reveals himself. Quite literally. Well, it would be more of a reveal if he was visible without his clothes on.
<There was a cool GIF from the film adaptaion of The Invisible Man where he starts unwrapping the bandages from his head; it's kind of creepy because first his head looks vaguely skull-like and then there's nothing at all underneath the dressings.>
Because Janny Hall has had enough of this guy’s crap. He's rude. He doesn't pay her. All he does is tinker with his bottles all day and enchant the furniture into pushing her around. She doesn't even know his name. And she calls him out on it in public. Brava, Mrs Hall!
It seems that the Invisible Man is equally sick of her, too, because he responds to her outburst by blowing his cover. In a fit of frustration, he throws off his false nose, hair, bandages, and gloves in front of a crowd. When confronted by the police, he strips completely and proceeds to Beat People Up.
Then he runs off into the daylight (which might be a lot more dramatic if you could actually see him), leaving some very concerned and confused villagers behind him.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not really liking this Invisible Man all that much. His hijinks are funny, he’s a bit snarky, but he’s not the nicest guy on the block. So good riddance to you sir, and we'll see how long you survive in the countryside without clothes or food or your books and bottles. Oh, it's so wonderful to be free of this Visitor. We of Iping are so relieved that we will never... have to deal with him... again... (?)
THE THOTFUL SPOT:
<insert a GIF of of Pooh. He is Thinking. He is also adorable.>
- The reader is deliberately locked out of the Invisible Man’s head. We view him through the lens of the towns people, and they don’t know much. Wonder, confusion, and not-knowing are key narrative elements in this story. We cannot see the titular character, literally or... literally.
- "Cat-prodding-a-bowl-of-water-and-thinking-he-won't-get-wet" is the vibe I'm getting off a few of these characters. The Invisible Man is kind of... hot headed and impulsive. You'd think that self-control would be the beter trait to express when you want to stay under the radar. Well, trial and error! Maybe he's learned his lesson...? What I'm saying is: keep an eye out for more potentially dangerous poking, and also for cats.
The next installment will cover The Invisible Man: Chapters VIII-XIV (8-14). Have a Marvel-ous week~
Looking for the posts that started it all? Click here for the super Sparkitors' Blogging the Classics!
Originally posted May 29, 2017