The Book and the Movie: The Invisible Man / H. G. Wells (1897) | James Whale (1933)



The Invisible Man is a science fiction novella by H. G. Wells published in 1897. Originally serialized in Pearson's Weekly in 1897, it was published as a novel the same year. The Invisible Man of the title is Griffin, a scientist who has devoted himself to research into optics and invents a way to change a body's refractive index to that of air so that it absorbs and reflects no light and thus becomes invisible. He successfully carries out this procedure on himself, but fails in his attempt to reverse the procedure.



"The drugs I took seemed to light up my brain. Suddenly I realized the power I held, the power to rule, to make the world grovel at my feet."


"So last January, with the beginning of a snowstorm in the air about me—and if it settled on me it would betray me!—weary, cold, painful, inexpressibly wretched, and still but half convinced of my invisible quality, I began this new life to which I am committed. I had no refuge, no appliances, no human being in the world in whom I could confide. To have told my secret would have given me away—made a mere show and rarity of me. Nevertheless, I was half-minded to accost some passer-by and throw myself upon his mercy. But I knew too clearly the terror and brutal cruelty my advances would evoke. I made no plans in the street. My sole object was to get shelter from the snow, to get myself covered and warm; then I might hope to plan. But even to me, an Invisible Man, the rows of London houses stood latched, barred, and bolted impregnably." 


“Great and strange ideas transcending experience often have less effect upon men and women than smaller, more tangible considerations.”


"My mood, I say, was one of exaltation. I felt as a seeing man might do, with padded feet and noiseless clothes, in a city of the blind. I experienced a wild impulse to jest, to startle people, to clap men on the back, fling people's hats astray, and generally revel in my extraordinary advantage. "


“The voice was indisputable. It continued to swear with that breadth and variety that distinguishes the swearing of a cultivated man.” 



"I remember that night. It was late at night—in the daytime one was bothered with the gaping, silly students—and I worked then sometimes till dawn. It came suddenly, splendid and complete in my mind. I was alone; the laboratory was still, with the tall lights burning brightly and silently. In all my great moments I have been alone. 'One could make an animal—a tissue—transparent! One could make it invisible! All except the pigments—I could be invisible!' I said, suddenly realising what it meant to be an albino with such knowledge. It was overwhelming. I left the filtering I was doing, and went and stared out of the great window at the stars. 'I could be invisible!' I repeated.
To do such a thing would be to transcend magic. And I beheld, unclouded by doubt, a magnificent vision of all that invisibility might mean to a man—the mystery, the power, the freedom. Drawbacks I saw none."

H. G. Wells, The Invisible Man, 1897

"Before I made this mad experiment I had dreamt of a thousand advantages. That afternoon it seemed all disappointment. I went over the heads of the things a man reckons desirable. No doubt invisibility made it possible to get them, but it made it impossible to enjoy them when they are got. Ambition—what is the good of pride of place when you cannot appear there? What is the good of the love of woman when her name must needs be Delilah? I have no taste for politics, for the blackguardisms of fame, for philanthropy, for sport. What was I to do? And for this I had become a wrapped-up mystery, a swathed and bandaged caricature of a man! "


“Alone– it is wonderful how little a man can do alone! To rob a little, to hurt a little, and there is the end.”


“Am I dreaming? Has the world gone mad–or have I?”


“Listen,” said the Voice. “The windows are fastened and I’ve taken the key out of the door. I am a fairly strong man, and I have the poker handy – besides being invisible. There’s not the slightest doubt that I could kill you both and get away quite easily if I wanted to – do you understand? Very well. If I let you go will you promise not to try any nonsense and do what I tell you?” 


“It was like the slow spreading of a poison. First came the little white nerves, a hazy grey sketch of a limb, then the glassy bones and intricate arteries, then the flesh and skin, first a faint fogginess and then growing rapidly dense and opaque.”



Boris Karloff had been Universal's original choice for the role of the Invisible Man. He turned it down because he would not be seen on screen until the end. Director James Whale wanted someone with more of an "intellectual" voice than Karloff. He selected Claude Rains after accidentally hearing Rains' screen test being played in another room--until this film, Rains had primarily been a stage actor.


James Whale directs Claude Rains in The Invisible Man1933
Stars: Claude Rains, Gloria Stuart, William Harrigan
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