Thursday, April 28, 2016

“Descent Into Crime and Madness”

I’ve had the beautifully executed front shown above stored deep in my computer files for a good long while now, but I had not come up with a reason to use it—until now. That cover comes from the 1956 Pocket paperback edition of H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man. It features a painting by Robert Korn.

In an excellent post that makes me want to re-read The Invisible Man, Cross-Examining Crime blogger Kate Jackson writes,
I’m probably chancing my arm writing a post about Wells’ The Invisible Man (1897) on a crime-fiction blog, as it is a work of science fiction. However, apart from the fact it is a really good read, I think a case can be made for it also being a psychological crime narrative of sorts, which tracks the journey one man takes into criminality and madness, whilst pursuing a scientific experiment.
She goes on to propose seven ways in which one might read this classic novel, the sixth of which focuses on Wells’ allusion to “ostracism and social isolation as roads into crime.”
As I mentioned in my introduction to this post, there is a crime narrative running through this story, as the Invisible Man commits more and more acts of crime beginning with theft but ultimately committing murder. Yet I think a key reason why the Invisible Man’s crimes become more violent is because of the rage he feels at being unfairly treated by others, which is exemplified after he has been run out of Iping: “I was wandering, mad with rage, naked, impotent. I could have murdered.” Moreover, he often has to resort to violent acts such as stone throwing to prove his existence and resorts to bribery and threats to get support. Therefore there is a suggestion that if the characters in the novel had treated him
H.G. Wells
sympathetically then the Invisible Man wouldn’t end the way he does. Consequently, there are moments when you feel sympathy for him.

However, such sympathy is of the troubled kind in my opinion, as a key trait in the Invisible Man is that he sees his immoral acts as justifiable and therefore not criminal. Moreover, it could even be said he perceives his invisibility as an excuse for acting above or outside of the law: “I was invisible, and I was only just beginning to realize the extraordinary advantage my invisibility gave me. My head was already teeming with plans if all the wild and wonderful things I had now impunity to do.” He also says that “the common conventions of humanity” do not apply to him as they “are all very well for common people.” Moreover, he comes to a point where he decides that the only vocation an invisible person is suited for is an assassin or killer, which is perhaps a symptom of his growing madness.
I cannot say that, after digesting this post by Jackson, I am disposed to re-label The Invisible Man as a crime novel, but she certainly argues her case well. Read the whole post here.

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