The Philosophy of The Invisible Man

a review of both the book and movie

The Philosophy of The Invisible Man

I have a rule about always reading a book before seeing the movie or TV show that it’s based on. If I read it after, I feel like my imagining of the characters is skewed. Also, in my opinion, it’s just more fun to see something come to life after reading it than it is to read something you’ve already seen.

The Invisible Man had already been on my to-read list, but seeing that the movie starring Elizabeth Moss, one of the baddest (in a good way) actors out there, was coming out I knew I had to read it. She absolutely slayed in Handmaid’s Tale (also a great book, too) and Mad Men, so I knew she would in this. And she did.

But first, I’ll start with the book. It was released in 1897 and featured a main character who was, obviously, invisible. But he tried to hide it at first in the book by dressing up in clothing. He had made himself completely and irreversibly invisible, unlike in the movie where his invisibility is made possible by a suit. So, he hid it with clothing and face covers and made himself known, and then proceeded to invisibly watch people, then steal, then commit further crimes.

H.G. Wells, the author of the book, was a writer who mixed philosophy with science, and focused on the moral and philosophical aspects of different science fiction elements. In both the book and movie, it seemed that becoming invisible to people made the morals of being a decent human being go out the window. If no one can see you, you’re capable of getting away with things. And if there aren’t consequences for you from the law, what stops someone from committing crimes?

The book asked more questions about humanity than it did create suspense. It was actually kind of a slow read, chapters revealing everyone that lived in this town the Invisible Man came into, and all of the repercussions one man could have on it.

I thought the translation to movie would focus more on the suspense and less on the philosophical aspects, but it focused on a different aspect entirely: an abusive relationship. A scene early on in the movie shows Elizabeth Moss's character scared to leave her new home, even just to get the mail, out of fear of her abuser. It really shows the effects of domestic abuse mentally. Adding an element like an invisible abuser seemed very symbolic and terrifying. It was entirely suspenseful and well done and while completely different than the book, it was modernized and translated incredibly well.

While both the book and movie elicited different responses, thoughts, and ideas, it's not just a suspense movie or novel. Both are meant to make you think about society as a whole and what one element being added to it would achieve. All around, worth a read & watch.

book reviews
Chelsea Swiggett
Chelsea Swiggett
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Chelsea Swiggett

I write a little of everything - book reviews, essays, folklore, history. I love researching and finding stories in everyday life.

reach me at [email protected]

See all posts by Chelsea Swiggett