Introduction: The Invisible Man by HG Wells & The Whip by Karen Kondazian
The Invisible Man by H G Wells and The Whip by Karen Kondazian are two stories about people altering their appearance, but for very different reasons. I read both stories right after each other and that’s one of the reasons why I noticed the connection between them and thought it would be interesting to review them together. In The Invisible Man, the protagonist altered his appearance because he wanted power and accolades. Charley, in The Whip, altered her appearance to take care of and support herself.
I will present the reviews separately, then I will tie them together.
To get the most from the SummaReviews of The Invisible Man by H G Wells and The Whip by Karen Kondazian, after you have read them, answer the following questions:
- Are these books that you’d like to read for yourself? Why? Why not?
- What has made an impression on you in this reading?
- Were there any kernels of wisdom?
- Is there a framework that you can use in your life and work?
- What are five takeaways from the SummaReview?
- What is one action that you can take as a result of reading this SummaReview?
Book Review – The Invisible Man by HG Wells
The Invisible Man, a science fiction novella by H G Wells has a very dramatic start. “The stranger came in February, one wintry day, through a biting wind and a driving snow, the last snowfall of the year, over the down, walking from Bramblehusrt railway station, and carrying a little portmanteau in his thickly gloved hand. He was wrapped from head to foot, and the brim of his soft felt hat hid every inch of his face, but the shiny tip of his nose; the snow had piled itself against his shoulder and chest, and added a white crest to the burden he carried. He staggered in the “Coach and Horses” more dead than alive, and flung his portmanteau down. ‘A fire’ he cried, ‘in the name of human charity! A room and a fire!’ He stamped and shook the snow off himself in the bar, and followed Mrs Hall into her guest parlour to strike a bargain. And with that much introduction, that and a couple of sovereigns flung unto the table, he took up his quarters in the inn.”
Isn’t that a great story starter? You can picture this person who arrives at the “Coach and Horses” and the reader instantly knows that this person has to be the invisible man. This is the first book I have read which was written by H G Wells – who also wrote War of the Worlds and The Time Machine. I went through a range of emotions while reading the book, and there were times when I sympathized with the protagonist, even though I knew that I shouldn’t, and I felt ashamed about it.
In the story you have this man, who looks very weird. He arrives in a small town and there is a cloud of secrecy surrounding him. No one knows his name, and he doesn’t engage in serious conversation with anyone. Mrs Hall assumes that the stranger had an accident or an operation of some sort and that’s why he looks so weird. We know he is invisible and we cannot help but wonder how he became that way. Was it an experiment gone wrong? Was it deliberate? If it was deliberate, what was his motive for becoming invisible?
Initially we do not know the invisible man’s name. However, later in the story we learn that his name is Giffin. The invisible man is locked away in a room conducting chemical experiments, which he records the results in notebooks. He works long hours. He tells Mrs Hall that he is an experimental investigator, but what does that really mean? What is he trying to uncover, why are these experiments so important to him? His true nature starts to emerge and he has a really short fuse. Did the experiment that made him invisible, affect his personality, or was he always like that? Because he is in a small town and doesn’t verbally engage with others, rumours start floating around.
There are many clues in the story, but the characters are not able to interpret them. Even though the evidence is there staring them in the face, they look for an explanation because people are not conditioned to embrace the “impossible.” When Fearenside’s dog bites the stranger and tears his clothing, he assumes the stranger is black because of what he is seeing. Mr Cuss the general practitioner decides to interview the stranger, and notices the empty sleeve. The stranger nips Cuss’ nose, and when he hits the hand away he feels something like an arm even though he cannot see one. But it doesn’t occur to Cuss, that the stranger is invisible even though the facts are staring him in the face.
The stranger steals money from the vicarage because he has to pay for board and lodging. The vicar, Mr Bunting, and his wife, hear a sound which they follow. They find a lit candle, notice that the money is missing, and the door unlocked. After the invisible man returns to the inn, Mrs Hall confronts him and demands that he vacate her inn. He pays her some money and she wonders where he got if from because just a few days before he didn’t have any. Right in front of her he starts to take off his disguise. He stuns everyone, “For the man [the invisible man] who stood there shouting some incoherent explanation, was a solid gesticulating figure up to the coat-collar of him, and then – nothingness, no visible thing at all!”
There is quite a disturbance, and the village constable, Mr Bobby Jaffers appears on the scene. They try to capture the invisible man, but it’s quite difficult and he escapes from their grasp and flees. Shortly after, he forces Thomas Marvel, a vagrant to help him retrieve his notebooks from the inn, since he had to leave in such haste. Back at the inn, some of the villagers look in the stranger’s notebooks and all they see are figures and ciphers which they do not understand.
The vagrant is also a coward, and who really likes to be forced into doing things. He tries to resign from the duties that the invisible man has bestowed on him, but to no avail. So Marvel tries to betray the invisible man to the police. The invisible man threatens to kill Marvel who escapes to Port Burdock. The story really starts to unfold now and we discover who the invisible man really is. He hides in a house which turns out to be the home of Dr Kemp, an acquaintance from University College, medical school. And we find out the invisible man’s name is Giffin when he reveals his identity to Dr Kemp. Giffin had switched from medicine to study physics.
For several chapters, Giffin shares his story with Kemp about how he became invisible. Giffin shares the tale of burning down a boarding house to keep his secret. He kills people to get what he wants, and the reader discovers that he really isn’t a likable person, someone who you might sympathize with. Giffin shows no kind of remorse for harming others. During his conversation with Kemp, he discloses the weaknesses of being invisible, which was subsequently used to bring him down
It turns out that when Giffin eats, before the food is completely digested into his system, you can see it. If it rains the water creates a watery outline, or if it snows, the snow sticks to his body, which prevents complete invisibility. And in the winter, he has to wear clothes because his body still reacts to the temperatures. While telling his story, Giffin tries to enlist Kemp in his “Reign of Terror,” not knowing that his former acquaintance had already alerted the local police. Giffin escapes and wants to exact revenge on Kemp. Kemp tells the police to use dogs because they can sense Giffin even when he is invisible.
This time, Giffin doesn’t get to exact his revenge, he is killed before he kills Kemp. Giffin, a gifted physicist has a tragic end. “Someone brought a sheet from the ‘Jolly Criketers,’ and having covered him [Giffin], they carried him into that house. And there it was, on a shabby bed in a tawdry, ill-lighted bedroom, surrounded by a crowd of ignorant and excited people, broken and wounded, betrayed and un-pitied, that Giffen, the first of all men to make himself invisible, the most gifted physicist the world has ever seen, ended in infinite disaster his strange and terrible career.”
The Invisible Man by HG Wells – Great Ideas
- Be careful what you wish for because you might just get it, and it may not be what you expected. Giffin wanted the cloak of invisibility and discovered that it wasn’t perfect.
- There is little a person can do by himself, he needs the help of others to succeed.
- Power corrupts the corruptible.
- At what point is enough, enough? Giffin was a gifted physicist, but that wasn’t enough. He didn’t want to share the spotlight or accolades with others.
- Do work that matters and share it with the world to benefit others.
Books About HG Wells
Book Review – The Whip by Karen Kondazian
The Whip by Karen Kondazian is based on the life of a stagecoach driver Charley, (Charlotte) Parkhurst (1812–1879), who lived most of her life disguised as a man. In those days, stagecoach drivers were also known as whips. The author, Kondazian uses the flashback literary device to tell her story.
The Whip starts off on May 8, 1879, when a young journalist, Timothy Byrne is riding beside One-Eyed Charley who works for Wells Fargo. Charley is traveling to Santa Cruz to make a delivery to Lester Middleton, a banker. After Charley fulfills his obligation by making the delivery to the bank, he goes to visit Doc Plum, and learns that he has advanced tongue cancer probably from chewing tobacco. The doctor encourages him to have the operation, which he refuses. Doc plum estimates that Charley has four or five months to live if he doesn’t have the cancer surgery. Readers do not know as yet that One-Eyed Charley is actually a woman called Charlotte.
After Charley leaves the doctor, he meets Byrne at the saloon, where the young journalist will interview him. The journalist notices something different about Charley’s demeanor, there is something very melancholy about him, but he proceeds with the interview.
Over seven months later, on December 28, 1979, Charley arrives home from another trip, and Anna is there with a steaming tureen of soup waiting for him. Who is Anna? Is she his wife or girlfriend? The reader can only speculate at this point. Charley has problems eating his supper, and his breathing becomes very laboured. He goes into his room and bolts the door. He refuses any help from her, so she has no other choice but to go and get help.
After she leaves, with great effort, Charley retrieves a trunk that is hidden under the bed. He opens the trunk and retrieves, “something small and fragile and read. He held it up in his hands. It was a tiny embroidered homespun dress…the dress of a small child.” Next he retrieves a tiny pair of crocheted shoes, a tattered copy of Emerson’s Essays and a dusty old whip. After he gets up from the floor, Charlie is feeling smothered by his clothes. He takes off his shirt, and unwraps cotton binding that is wrapped around his chest and back. Charley is dying and we know that, so the reader knows that his final acts are significant but do not understand why.
The story reverts to March 1812, where a mother leaves her baby at the Boston Society for Destitute Children, an orphanage. During the night, the baby awakens seeking the comfort of her mother’s breast and doesn’t find it. She starts to cry and the other children start to scream. One of the workers at the orphanage takes the baby and places her in a closet, in a laundry basket. Lee Colton, a four year old boy, follows her to see what she is going to do with the baby. After the woman leaves, the young boy gathers the baby in his arms and they both fall asleep. The next morning, the worker finds Lee asleep with the baby girl staring up at him.
When Charlotte is four and Lee eight, Miss Isabelle Haden comes to the orphanage, and decides to make changes. All along boys and girls shared the same room so she decides to have separate rooms for them. Lee panics and cuts Charlotte’s hair like a boy and dresses her in boy’s clothing because he does not want them to be separated. Lee renames Charlotte Char…lee. Unfortunately, Miss Haden has the boys stripped and discovers that there is a girl among them.
Haden is a cruel woman. At nights, Lee slips into the girls’ room and sleeps next to Charlotte, where Haden finds him in the morning. She punishes Lee and admonishes Charlotte instructing her not to have anything to do with Lee. Both defy her and she punishes them. The cruelty Haden metes out to Charlotte and Lee makes them even more defiant.
When Charlotte is 11, instead of sewing, she goes to play with Lee. A fight breaks out and Haden beats Charlotte mercilessly. She thinks she can break Charlotte by forcing her to become a stable boy. Charlotte can only return inside after issuing a heartfelt apology.
Jonas the groom takes Charlotte under his wings and teaches her about horses. Charlotte never apologizes to Haden and is contented to live in the stables. Two years later Charlotte is still in the stables. Lee never forgets Charlotte and he is quite obsessed with her – he also views her as his possession. When he is 18, Lee forces himself on Charlotte and rapes her, but in his mind he doesn’t view it as raping. Jonas always takes care of Charlotte and he becomes the father she never knew.
After Charlotte leaves the orphanage, she goes back regularly to visit Jonas, and when he dies she takes his whip. Charlotte works at Bidwell Boardinghouse as a cook. After leaving the orphanage, over the years, she sees Lee from time to time when he shows up. During one such occasion, Lee appears with a horse that is hurt, seeking Charlotte’s assistance. After she examines the horse, Charlotte identifies the problem, and suggests that Lee take the horse to a farrier.
They go together to see Byron, the farrier. There is an attraction between Charlotte and Byron and though he discourages it, the chemistry is too strong. She sneaks out in the nights to visit Byron and they read Emerson’s Essays together. Charlotte is fired from her job because she is involved with a black man, and at the time it was not acceptable for the races to mix. The people in the town ostracized her for it, and treat her like she never existed. Lee doesn’t react very kindly either. Byron and Charlotte leave the town and live on the outskirts and have a child together.
One day while Charlotte is away washing clothes, Lee organizes a lynching mob. The mob only wants to scare Byron, however, Lee ensures that he is killed. When Charlotte returns, he sees what has happened. At the time most of the hooded men had already left, except for Lee. He rapes and abuses her, screaming obscenities at her. Charlotte is unconscious for a while. When she comes to, she buries her family, let the horses loose except for one, takes Byron’s pistol and gathers her small bundle of possessions and rides away.
Charlotte promises herself that she will kill Lee Colton for killing her family. A few days later, Charlotte sees an ad for becoming a whip. She cuts off her hair and disguises herself as a man. She becomes what Lee Colton wanted her to be all those years ago at the orphanage.
The Whip is a wonderful story, and you see how Charlotte is blossoming as the whip, Charley. Jonas has trained her well and she really knows and understands horses. She also adopts masculine traits and she fills out into her new persona. Charley picks up the masculine habit of chewing tobacco. The story is quite intriguing as it unfolds and you see Charley blossoming, as she finds her purpose in life. She is one of the best whips around and is known for being on time.
Charley is pushed over the edge after Lee Colton kills Tonia, who is like a daughter to Charley. Charley had confided in Tonia – who was living with her mother, Anna at Charley’s home – that she is a woman and what Lee Colton had done to her family. The next day, Tonia goes in search of Colton to kill him. Tonia is killed instead and that breaks Charley’s heart. After Tonia’s funeral, Charley grabs Byron’s gun and goes in search of Colton. “Well, hello there. Shit. I wasn’t sure back then at the coach it was you Charlotte. Or should I say Char…lee? Looks like you took my name after all….Come on now, Charlotte, you can’t kill me. I’m the one who took care of you. I raised you. I’m the one that loves you. I’m all you’ve got in the world. I’m your brother.”
After trying to persuade her, Charley finally whispers that he isn’t her brother. She pulls the trigger and shoots him in the chest. “She stepped in close to Lee’s body. Her thoughts were wrapping themselves tightly around her feelings. There was no joy or relief, no satisfaction, no sense of revenge now fulfilled. The time had come. She had done what she had to do for Tonia, for Anna, for Byron, for the baby. Done what she had to do for herself.”
Giffen, the invisible man, and Charley, the whip, both alter their appearances. Giffen does it for power and prestige, while Charley does it for survival. Giffen takes pleasure in hurting others and feels no remorse. He kills people because they get in his way. Charley kills Lee Colton because he not only killed her family, but also Tonia, who was like a daughter to her. She feels no joy when the deed is done – she doesn’t feel as if revenge is sweet.
Conclusion: The Invisible Man by HG Wells & The Whip by Karen Kondazian
I recommend both The Invisible Man by H G Wells and The Whip by Karen Kondazian and recommend that you read one immediately after the other. There are big lessons in both of these books. I won a copy of The Whip.