While Griffin’s arrival in Iping was marked by strange incidents, from that point on his stay at the Coach and Horses is seemingly ordinary. He occasionally fights with Mrs. Hall about “matters of domestic discipline,” but each time he settles the matter by promising to pay her more. Griffin does not attend church and never communicates with anyone outside the village. He works “fitfully,” and his mood is equally inconsistent. He speaks to himself in “a low voice,” and Mrs. Hall cannot understand what he is saying.
Griffin violates all the expectations and values that are shared by people in Iping. Whereas Iping is defined by a sense of community, tradition, and faith, Griffin is isolated, non-religious, and erratic. These traits are not necessarily bad, but are perceived as bizarre by the people of Iping because they are so unfamiliar.
Griffin does not go outside in the daytime, but sometimes ventures out at night, completely wrapped up in clothes. His odd appearance startles the villagers. He quickly becomes the subject of gossip in Iping. There is much discussion of his job; Mrs. Hall loves to explain that he is an “experimental investigator,” adding that this means he is someone who “discover[s] things.” When she is not listening, the villagers speculate that Griffin is a criminal who wraps himself up in order to disguise his identity. One villager proposes that Griffin is an anarchist who is secretly “preparing explosives.”
The villagers’ speculation about Griffin reveals more about their fears than about Griffin himself. Most people in Iping (including Mrs. Hall herself, despite what she claims) do not understand what an “experimental investigator” is. As a result, their idea of Griffin is colored by various fears and prejudices of their own about criminals, anarchists, and non-white people.
Fearenside, meanwhile, continues to insist that Griffin is a “piebald.” Others think that he is “a harmless lunatic.” People from Sussex are not usually superstitious, yet after some incidents in early April some of the women in Iping begin to entertain thoughts of “the supernatural.” Although there are many different theories about Griffin in Iping, all the villagers agree that they dislike him. They find his rude manner strange and off-putting; after he walks past people mock his manner, and children sometimes shout “Bogey Man!”
It is curious that the narrator asserts that people from Sussex are not superstitious, because at other points in the novel they behave in a decidedly superstitious way. This indicates that “superstitious” has different meanings in different contexts. For example, some people consider religious belief to be a form of superstition, while others obviously do not agree.
Cuss, the local doctor, is “devoured by curiosity” over Griffin’s appearance. He spends all of April and May trying to find a chance to talk to Griffin, and eventually goes to the Coach and Horses, where he is surprised to learn that Mrs. Hall does not know the stranger’s name (he’s not yet referred to as Griffin). When Cuss goes into the parlor room where Griffin is working, she overhears hushed voices, a “cry of surprise,” and a laugh. Cuss leaves ten minutes later, and Mrs. Hall hears Griffin still laughing alone. Cuss goes straight to the vicar, Bunting, and asks if he is crazy. He then demands a drink.
So far there have been many episodes in which Griffin is described as laughing or surrounded by laughter. Yet this laughter is not an indication of comedy or joy; rather, there is something distinctly sinister about it. Previously, the narrator described Griffin’s laugh as “cold,” and thus this laughter seems more demonic or maniacal than jolly.
Cuss tells Bunting that Griffin kept sniffing while they spoke, and he assumed he’d caught a cold. Bunting inquired about Griffin’s research, and while Griffin was talking he saw that his sleeve was completely empty. When Cuss made a remark about this, Griffin extended the arm of his jacket and pinched Cuss’s nose. Cuss was so frightened that he knocked Griffin’s arm out of the way and ran out of the room. He tells Bunting that although there was nothing there, it felt like he was hitting an arm. Bunting comments that it is “a most remarkable story.”
As a doctor and priest, respectively, Cuss and Bunting bear a responsibility for adjudicating matters of science, human nature, skepticism, and faith within Iping. Yet Griffin’s arrival has left them both completely baffled. If these authority figures are clueless about Griffin, then it seems there is little hope for the ordinary villagers.