It is quite true that both Griffin and Dr. Kemp were scientists who had attended the same institution, however where they differ is in their temperaments, attitudes towards scientific research, life, and humanity.They both have opposite attitudes towards the ethics of scientific research. While for Dr. Kemp Scientific research is about contributing towards the welfare of all humanity, for Griffin it is however a means of self-aggrandisement and showing to others who is in control of the world! For Griffin, invisibility is a discovery that he wants to splash upon the world with a crushing effect to become famous. It was a way of taking revenge on a world that did not recognize his brilliance. Dr. Kemp, on the other had is not obsessed with Science as a means for self glorification. No, he doesn’t want to share the opportunity of ruling over the world as Griffin’s confederate even if it lends him all the power and money that anyone would want. It goes without saying that while Griffin is obsessed with success in discovering the secret of invisibility even if it means robbing his own father, Dr. Kemp, however has too great a conscience to join him, and it his concern for the safety of mankind with a maniac on the loose that prompts him to write a note to Colonel Adye.
Griffin’s antisocial and asocial behaviour is the result of his being an albino, a young man of twenty-two who has ambitions but not the economic means to fulfil them. He has an exaggerated feeling of being superior in the midst of provincial professors and provincial fellow students. It is about a feeling of inferiority somehow driving the engine of revenge and an exaggerated sense of superiority over others. Griffin was obsessed by a magnificent vision of the power and freedom that his discovery would give him. He didn’t want to share his secret with anyone. This obsession with power invests his character with a violent streak which keeps appearing throughout the novel! Take for example his hitting the landlord in chapter 24, and his setting fire to his lodgings at Oxford street. This violent streak in his character can be seen in the way he assaults whoever comes to capture him in the seventh chapter when he reveals himself at the Coach and Horses Inn at Ipping. Griffin is devoid of conscience and he has no scruples about robbing his own father when he runs out of money to fund his research. What makes things worse is that he has no remorse for his father who commits suicide when he is not able to pay back the stolen money to his debtor! What makes Griffin even more dangerous and scary is his world view which he describes to Dr. Kemp in the chapter 24 where he invites Dr. Kemp to be his confederate, and tells him that together they will unleash, “a reign of terror” on the whole world. Griffin tells Dr. Kemp how they could set out on a spree of “Judicious slaying” of those who would dare to voice their dissent to his rule. Apparently the perceived slight that he feels he has received at the hands of the society has turned him into a very revengeful person with a dangerous personal agenda! The ethics of scientific research might go for a toss, for all he cares, what matters is the rather sadistic pleasure that he gains from hurting others. There is a rather childish form of pleasure in him when he hits Mr. Hall in the chest when he goes to him to ask him about the dog bite, or for that effect the satisfying feeling of hitting his landlord in Oxford street! The murder of Mr. Wicksteed, an innocent man of 45 in chapter 26 takes this violent streak to another higher and more dangerous level!
Dr. Kemp, the counterfoil to Griffin is a humanist, a compassionate scientist who is able to balance cold scientific reasoning and logic with the romanticism of a poet. His shrewd scientific outlook makes him notice the spot of blood that had been left by Griffin when he entered Dr. Kemp’s house after being shot by the black bearded man at the Jolly Cricketers. Dr. Kemp is a person who doesn’t take things at face value, so he checks all the newspapers before deciding to send a note to Colonel Adye. This is a man who is not only a scientist but also someone who can admire the rich golden colour of the setting sun bathing the back of the hill. When he first meets Griffin, he treats him with great hospitality, and kindness. Dr. Kemp listens to Griffin’s stories about how he discovered the secret of invisibility, how he treated the cat, and how he had no scruples in turning himself, a human being into a guinea pig as the last stage in his research into invisibility. The conflict in Dr. Kemp’s mind as to whether or not he should hand Griffin to the authorities stands testimony to the fact that this is a man who would not easily betray a friend, let alone someone who went to the same college as he did. He thinks to himself if it would not “be a breach of faith” to inform the authorities about Griffin’s presence in his house. However after careful thought, Dr. Kemp finally does send a note addressed to Colonel Adye. Dr. Kemp is a counterbalance to Griffin, he is a more sane and balanced person than the latter, he believes in the ethics of scientific research, he doesn’t approve of Griffin’s discovery because it doesn’t benefit mankind. He is not tempted by the vision of power and wealth promised by Griffin if he joins him as a “confederate”. He questions the need to indulge in unnecessary killing of people. He doesn’t approve of Griffin’s vision of “playing a game against a race”. He asks Griffin how he could hope to gain happiness through such violent means. He tells him not to “be a lone wolf,” to “Publish” his “results; take the world …into (his) confidence”.
Ultimately, it can be said that Dr. Kemp knows his responsibilities towards the welfare of humankind, and his scientific curiosity doesn’t overshadow his belief in the ethics of scientific ethics.
Note: This will help formulate answers to the following questions:
1. Draw a character sketch of Griffin.
2. Draw a character sketch of Dr. Kemp.
3. Draw a comparison between Griffin and Dr. Kemp.
4. Write a note on the theme of Scientific Ethics as highlighted by the novel The Invisible
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