Reason for Reading: Coursera fantasy and science fiction course
In H. G. Wells’ classic novel, a scientist turns himself invisible and wreaks havoc in rural England. This book is a versatile classic because it could be read by someone who is young or who simply wants to read fluff, but it can also be appreciated by more careful readers who are looking for undercurrents of meaning. It’s a tragi-farcical romp in 19th century England, but it’s also a warning about what people might do simply because they can get away with it. This is a classic that anyone interested in science fiction should read.
Essay on The Invisible Man, by H.G. Wells for Coursera Fantasy and Science Fiction. May contain spoilers!!!
In his 1897 novel The Invisible Man, H. G. Wells portrayed a tragic anti-hero, a trend which had become popular among romantic writers following in the footsteps of Milton. Well’s character Griffin isolated himself from humanity at first because he wanted all the glory of his discoveries. Later, he was driven to isolation by a fear of discovery. Finally, he was driven mad by the effects of his self-imposed isolation.
Wells used two narrative styles for this novel. One style was Griffin’s first person narrative. This style not only established Griffin as the protagonist of the story, but it also painted him in a tragic light: he was naked, hungry, and alone; facing the unforeseen difficulties of invisibility. He had striven diligently for success only to have it wrenched away as he recognized his own impotence in isolation. Only upon this dreadful realization did he seek out compatriots. However, he faced rejection not only from the general populace, but also from his chosen companions. Like Satan in Paradise Lost, Griffin had rebelled against the social order, and been mortified by his own failure. Like Satan, he failed to recognize his own fault in his fall, and instead sought revenge.
The other narrative style used in The Invisible Man was that of a semi-omniscient reporter/observer who told the story as seen through the eyes of individual characters. This style was distanced from the motivations of characters, resulting in the farcical effect of watching people rushing after flying objects and thrashing wildly at thin air. This narrative style made Griffin’s plight seem pathetically silly. It is reminiscent of the comic debasement of Satan at the end of Paradise Lost. It suggests that Griffin doesn’t deserve the tragic grandeur of a real hero–because he’s just a sad little man with poor morals and no friends.
2012 Book 47: The Subtle Knife, by Philip Pullman (3/11/2012)
Reason for Reading: Interested in the Paradise Lost allegory
My Review: 3/5 stars
Lyra has traveled to a parallel universe, where she meets Will—another traveler of universes. They team up when they find that Lyra’s quest to find out more about dust and Will’s quest to find his missing father are intertwined. This is a difficult book for me to review. The first time I tried to read this book, I gave up about a quarter of the way through because I didn’t like being beat over the head with an anti-religion Message. It really lacked subtly in this book, and I hear it is even more brutal in the third book. However, I decided to give this book another try because I learned that it was a retelling of Paradise Lost, and I was interested in seeing what he did with that. My final conclusion: I still feel that I was being beat over the head with a Message; however, I think Pullman is a VERY creative author. SPOILER ALERT: I was a little off-put by the pointless waste of lives at the end of the book. But perhaps the third book will elucidate the reasons for these deaths.