Places: The Invisible Man

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1897

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Science fiction

Time of work: Late nineteenth century

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places DiscussedIping

Iping. Invisible Man, TheFictitious town in southern England’s Sussex County, where Griffin, a scientist who has made himself invisible, seeks refuge from the crowds and dirt of London. He hopes that the village will provide him with a place where he can continue his research without being disturbed by the people who live there, all of whom he considers of inferior intelligence. He also hopes that the village, with its relatively clean air and streets, will enable him to commit robberies whenever he needs money and remain undetected. Later, when he runs amok in the village, H. G. Wells satirizes, actually even mocks, the inhabitants of British villages who can have no idea what they are up against in the person of the Invisible Man. Griffin makes chaos of the town’s celebration of Whit-Monday, the day after Whitsunday or Pentecost, when the small town has a kind of carnival in celebration of the holiday.


*London. Great Britain’s capital city, where Griffin first becomes invisible. He soon learns, however, that London is no place for an invisible man. The streets are full of dirt that quickly makes his feet visible. The air is full of dirt that settles on his body and makes his form visible if he stays outside for any length of time. Moreover, London’s weather is too cold for him to go naked in the streets, and he must remain naked to be completely invisible. The streets are full of people, carts, and other vehicles that present constant danger to him since they cannot see him and he cannot watch in all directions all the time. Even a large emporium or retail store where he tries to take refuge is too crowded to serve as a safe haven. Eventually, he robs a theatrical costume place on Drury Lane, a street in the theater district, taking money and a disguise that will, he hopes, enable him to survive long enough to get out of London and into the rural village of Iping.

Port Stowe

Port Stowe and Port Burdock. Fictitious towns on the southern coast of England, across the English Channel from France, to which Griffin goes in the hope of finding a ship on which he can began a journey to reach Spain or Algiers, where he can survive without clothes in a warmer climate. Instead of boarding a ship, Griffin remains in the area in the home of a former scientific colleague, Dr. Kemp. When Kemp proves uncooperative, Griffin then decides to launch a reign of terror in the area and become its absolute ruler. However, he ends up dying in a village street.

BibliographyCosta, Richard Hauer. H. G. Wells. Boston: Twayne, 1967. Explains the influence of science on the novel, compares the novel to Wells’s earlier science fiction, and explores the struggle of the characters to cope with new scientific attitudes.Hammond, J. R. An H. G. Wells Companion: A Guide to the Novels, Romances, and Short Stories. Totowa, N.J.: Barnes & Noble Books, 1979. Describes the sense of excitement that greeted the first publication of the novel, its circumstantial and realistic setting, the sharp observation of social details, and the economical and dramatic structure of the narrative.McConnell, Frank. The Science Fiction of H. G. Wells. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981. Emphasizes the novel’s grim realism and considers nineteenth century works that may have influenced Wells’s unique sense of the apocalyptic and his powerful descriptions of society in disorder. Analyzes Griffin’s character and his proneness to violence, Wells’s depiction of middle-class society and how it organizes itself to capture Griffin, and the role of Marvel as a comic character and victim.Mackenzie, Norman, and Jeanne Mackenzie. The Time Traveller: The Life of H. G. Wells. Rev. ed. London: Hogarth Press, 1987. Compares Griffin to Wells’s other mad scientists and discusses Wells’s ambivalence about science, his choice of characters, and the place of the characters in his thinking about science and nature.Williamson, Jack. H. G. Wells: Critic of Progress. Baltimore: Mirage Press, 1973. Discusses Griffin’s inhuman qualities and the role of the intellect as a theme in the novel. Explores the precise evocation of setting, Wells’s handling of point of view, and his tendency to overlook inconsistencies in order to build his narrative.
Categories: Places