Thursday, May 28, 2009



l   Patrick Suskind wrote Perfume in third person, omniscient. Suskind keeps a distance from Grenouille to create suspense, but also to prohibit the reader from feeling sympathetic to Grenouille.

l   However, Suskind sometimes writes as though he really is Grenouille. For example, in chapter 35, page 177, Suskind gives a very long description of the beauty of the woman, but in the last sentence of the description, he describes, “– her teeth like pearls and her limbs smooth as ivory – and all those idiotic comparisons.” Even though the narrator is omniscient, saying that the comparisons were idiotic makes the narrator sound like Grenouille, because Grenouille could not care less about her beauty, and probably would have called those comparisons idiotic as well.



l   In chapter 40, page 202, everyone’s suspecting the Gypsies, the Italians, the wigmakers, the Jews, monks of the Benedictine cloister, Cistercians, the Freemasons, the lunatics from charite, the charcoal-burners, the beggars, and the nobility to be the murderer. This is an example of dramatic irony and satire because while reading this whole chapter, the reader already knows who is responsible for all these murders.

l   In chapter 44, page 221 and 229, when Richis, his people, and his daughter were alone in the house with Grenouille, there is foreshadow and irony: “Tomorrow he would let her in on the secret, he (Richis) said, but she could be certain that everything that he was planning and doing was for her good and would work towards her future happiness.” As the reader, we know that happiness is the complete opposite of what Richis’ daughter and he will have after that night. That night at the house, Richis “slept truly splendidly for the first time in months” because Richis thought that his daughter and he were in the safest place on earth, when ironically, they were under the same roof as the person they were trying to avoid.

l   On page 229, Richis was “eager almost to find her still sleeping, wanting to kiss her awake once again – one last time, before he must give her to another man.” This is satire because we know that he won’t be able to do that since she is dead, and also because this other man that Richis is giving his daughter to is Grenouille, without Richis knowing that coming.


l Perfume is divided into four parts:

PART I: Concludes with the end of his apprenticeship to Baldini and departure from Paris

PART II: Deals with his years of isolation and his introduction to the enlightenment society of Montpellier by the marquis

PART III: Represents residence in Grasse while developing techniques for the manufacture of perfumes

PART IV: Details flight from the site of his scheduled execution to die as on the day of his birth among the odors of Paris

l   By dividing this novel into four parts, Suskind is emphasizing the skills that Grenouille is developing while he is on his journey to create perfumes. The beginning of each part also represent Grenouille meeting new people, society and scent. For example, in Part I, Grenouille encounters many characters such as Madame Gaillard, Father Terrier and Baldini. Grenouille develops new skills being with Baldini, which helps him throughout the novel. He also meets new scent of nature in Part II, where he does not smell human odor. However, towards the end of every chapter, Grenouille leaves the people he met in each chapter. For example, Grenouille leaves Baldini towards the end of Part I. By giving unfortunate events to people who separated from Grenouille, Suskind is emphasizing that Grenouille is the one bringing unhappiness, and that Grenouille is not "normal."

l   Perfume is a suspense novel. Although the reader knows that Grenouille is guilty, the reader wonders whether and how Grenouille will be brought to justice. The novel could also be a horror novel. While it is clear that Grenouille is obsessed and insane, he performs within the confines of eighteenth century French society in a clear manner. 


She has no sense of smell, so she does not know that Grenouille has no scent. She is in charge of a boarding house, and her goal is to save enough money to have a proper death and funeral. She sells Grenouille to Grimal after she grows suspicious of him who is able to locate her money. Ironically, she loses all her money in old age, dies a miserable death, and is not even buried.

1. Simple women with no passion for life and lacks emotion:
  • "Madame Gaillard's life already lay behind her"
  • "a numbed women"
  • "she did not grieve over those that die, nor rejoice over those that remained to her"
  • "she felt nothing when later she slept with a man, and just as little when she bore her children" - can indicate a lacking material which may have affected Grenouille as he has never had the opportunity to be cared for by anyone remotely close to being a motherly figure
2. She is a strong women:
  • "when her husband beat her, she did not flinch"
3. She is practical therefore well suited to Grenouille's needs:
  • "Madame Gaillard had a merciless sense of order and justice"
  • "she showed no preference for any one of the children entrusted to her nor discriminated against any one of them"
  • "for little Grenouille, Madame Gaillard's establishment was a blessing"
4. She has no sense of smell:
  • "she had lost for good all sense of smell and every sense of human warmth and human coldness - indeed, every human passion"
  • "tenderness had become as foreign to her as enmity, joy as strange as despair"
  • The fact that she cannot smell can symbolize her disinterest in other people. Because this story is about smell, Madame Gaillard's lack of emotion is represented by not being able to smell. 
5. She had only one goal:
  • "she wanted to buy an annuity, with just enough beyond that so that she could afford to die at home"
  • "she wanted to afford a private death"
  • "she dreaded a communal, public death among hundreds of strangers"
  • Madame Gaillard's one and only goal was to save enough money to have a proper funeral, but this did not happen. Ironically, she had a miserable death, which suggest that Grenouille cause unfortunate events to characters who he spends time with. 

Madame Gaillard's character help to convey the themes of the overlooked reality of human nature. Her character is predominantly a representation of the destruction of dreams and her story appears to link to absurdism and the irony. She may also symbolize the fundamental selfishness of human beings, as she decided to sell Grenouille after she became suspicious. All Madame Gaillard "desired from life" was "her own private and sheltered death", away from the Hotel-Dieu, in command of her own life, with her own small house and her own independent existence, free from being responsible for orphans or for meeting social expectations. She wishes to die alone, away from human contact, which links to the fact that she cannot smell. Both of these characteristics of Madame Gaillard shows how she is disinterested in people around her, and only wishes to fulfill her dream. 

Madame Gaillard's defeated dream may represent the brutally ironic, stochastic nature of life, as it takes unexpected paths and defies the plans we make. This could link to absurdism, and how our life's goals and ambitions are ultimately futile.

Madame Gaillard also exhibits an underlying egoistical nature, which may symbolize the fundamental selfishness of human beings, with the logic that allows her make the decision to get rid of Grenouille with "not the slightest twinge of conscience"

Grenouille Character Study/Development

Grenouille is the main character of the novel “Perfume”. This character has a heightened sense of smell and this novel talks about his journey in finding the perfect odor. As the novel develops the reader understands that Grenouille has a different personality to the one we are used to.  Here we will try to identify some key aspects of Grenouille and what they can signify.

Grenouille and his lack of smell

From the beginning of the novel, the main character; Grenouille was born without any human scent. For this reason people feared him subconsciously as the lack of scent gives the idea that he isn’t human ” He is possessed by the devil…he doesn’t smell at all” In the middle of the novel Grenouille realizes that “although he knew that this odor was his odour, could not smell it…He was deathly afraid”. The fact that Grenouille cannot smell himself scares him because the sense of smell is his greatest ability. Grenouille determines identity through smell and the fact that he cannot smell himself allows him to come to the realization that he does not have an identity.

Grenouille’s relationship with others/ outsider to society 

Grenouille doesn’t have any deep relationship with anyone throughout the novel. He does not care about their personality, looks, or intelligence but obsessed with smell. For this reason he kills his victim and captures their scents so he can have it to himself. His interaction with people is a minimum and he would rather be alone; “And then, left alone, at last – once again”. He only interacts with others to pursue his passion of odors.  People fear and dislike Grenouille subconsciously because he doesn’t have an odor. After Grenouille creates his human scent, people start to notice him more and accept him as a part of society but this is artificial. He notices after creating the perfect scent that he has no need for people to like him because he believes that other humans aren’t worth his time.

Grenouille as a tick.

Ticks are external parasites on mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. Both males and females feed on blood. They are capable of transmitting a pathogen to humans, or may in some other way affect human health and sometimes cause death. Throughout Perfume Suskind describes Grenouille as a tick. This is because he seems to use every person he encounters and once he leaves they die. Grenouille uses his mother just to be born in the world and once Grenouille has no use for her, she gets executed. Grenouille also encounters Madame Gaillard and he feeds off her, grows under custody, but once that chapter of his life is over she ends up having a horrible death. In addition Grenouille also “uses” Baldini to learn the arts of perfume but once he has learnt everything he can and leaves, Baldini dies. When Suskind describes Grenouille he does so in a dark tone “ The tick has scented blood…now it let itself drop, fro better or for worse, entirely without hope”

Grenouille as a murderer

Grenouille was portrayed as a natural killer. His primal instinct was to do anything to obtain what he desired. He does not kill others for pleasure, but to obtain their scent. For this reasons his victims were only the ones who Grenouille thought had extraordinary scents. Since the reader knows that scent represents identity it could be said that Grenouille’s motive for murdering his victims is to acquire an identity. In addition, whenever he moves on from one person to the other an unfortunate accident occurs to the person which results to their death. This could add on to the symbolism where Grenouille is a tick and feeds off the “life” of people, just like ticks.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009



            It appears as though Grenouille can survive through any condition, whether the situation is caused deliberately or not.

The reader encounters his first miraculous survival when Grenouille was born unharmed by his mother. Saved by the arrest of the mother, Grenouille was taken care by a couple of wet nurses which proves that he was fortunate of not being assassinated by the mother just like the rest of his siblings were. In addition, he was born in the foulest area of Paris, by the fish stall, which again reflects the minimal chance of survival that he managed to live through. 

During his stay at Madame Gaillard’s, he faced several life-altering experiences: discrimination and bullying by the orphans along with contraction of diseases. Due to his differences, the children strangled Grenouille and shoved him down a well that was twenty-foot deep and yet he survived. As Suskind quotes, “ he survived the measles, dysentery, chicken pox, cholera and a scalding with boiling water poured over his chest”, it is evident that he is immortal and nothing could kill him. He was “as tough as a resistant bacterium and as content as a tick” and throughout those experiences he shows no feelings and emotions whatsoever, which portrays him as somewhat inhuman and monstrous.

Grenouille contracts another disease when he works at the House of Giuseppe Baldini when he could not extract scent from particular substances.  The symptoms appear extreme as he was “spewing viscous pus and blood streaked with yellow” and his body was “more like a corpse than a living organism”. Most likely, the reader was convinced that he was going to die since the doctor could not even treat his disease (syphilitic smallpox).  However, as soon as Baldini unravels the mystery of how to extract the scent that he desperately sought for, Grenouille unbelievably recovers within a week.  It appears that the entire world revolves around scent for Grenouille, and every action, motive, reason, decision concerns smell. In addition, scent is an essential factor in his life because it determines his overall endurance which affects his mortality.

            Another experience that he managed to survive is the time when he isolated himself up in the mountains, in an undiscovered cave for seven years. He ate anything he could that came across him such as bats, snakes, rats, birds, even moss and rocks. He ate all the things that we think are inedible, which gives a sense of savagery and again inhumanness. In fact, a miracle happened here when he a woke in his tunnel on a cold morning, “He would have slept himself to death. But then the weather turned around, there was a thaw, and he was saved. “ This time the situation improved not by his will, but by the coincidence of natural climate change therefore he was lucky again.

            Towards the end of the novel, Grenouille was able to avoid the execution that the officials announced to the public. Using his power of scent, he poured the perfume that emits the sense of innocence and sympathy all over his body, which convinced the entire crowd that he did not deserve this execution whatsoever.  Although the city was outraged by the merciless murder, the anger suddenly turned into sympathy, then into admiration as soon as Grenouille stood on the stage of execution. Even Richis who was furious of losing his precious daughter was persuaded that Grenouille was an innocent man, and soon forgave him and furthermore loved him. Yet again, he survived not by fate but by using his power.

            Nevertheless, it is evident that he is a survivor who is basically immortal. Whether that is by coincidence or intentional, he manages to survive through all conditions. By possessing the power of distinguishing various scents, he is able to do anything.


à Existential Analysis: to help man to find a way of living where he can give his inner consent to his own acting (“affirmation of life”).

à Lead the person to dare (mentally and emotionally) free experiences, to induce authentic decisions and to bring about a truly responsible way of dealing with life and the world. Thus, Existential Analysis can be applied in cases of psychosocial, psychosomatic and psychological caused disorder in experience and behaviour.

Throughout the novel Grenouille chooses his own path, for example every time he leaves people. At the start he could have stayed with Monsieur Grimal and never perceived his perfumery path but he instead makes the decision to beg Baldini to take him in so that he could learn about how to make perfumes.  This leads to Grenouille developing into an expert in smell and techniques for making perfumes. Also, during the book Grenouille always leaves his “bosses” and so he chooses to move on and experience the world. After leaving Baldini he travels and goes to the countryside where he chooses to spend the next seven years in a cave. He does this in order to not be recruited to the war since at the time France was fighting England. However he also chooses to be in the cave because he was sick of the smell of society and decided to isolate himself. Every action Grenouille does makes him grow. By him segregating himself from society he was able to refresh himself and become more mature and less egoistic. However this egoism builds again on Grenouille once he perfects his perfumes.

The perfumes are also what make up his future. For example, once Grenouille creates a perfume to smell like a human, people start to acknowledge his existence and are more welcoming to him. This is a change to people’s usual attitude of unnoticing him because they can’t smell him and therefore he does not “exist” to them. Hence, the perfume Grenouille created while he was staying with the marquis, Tallade Espinasse, he receives admiration from people for the first time. Similarly at the end of the story people change their view on Grenouille after he is shown to the public before his execution. People get a strong alternation towards their impression of him because of the perfume he is wearing. The perfume was made from all the girls he had killed and therefore had the most delicate smells, which caused the public to praise him and become convinced that he was not the murderer. This shows how perfume plays a great deal in existentialism because his path of life changes due to the scents he makes for himself.

Throughout the whole story Grenouille(LINK) changes and every time he chooses the path he takes in life. Leaving his “superiors”, killing innocent women for their smell, and making perfumes are all his choices and so the results always occur due to his own decisions.


Human Nature

During this time reference in France people were very greedy they experienced a lot of hardship and therefore they only did things that would benefit them. For example in Perfume, Baldini at first is not willing to take in Grenouille but when he exposes his strong olfactory senses by copying Pelissier’s “Amor and Psyche” perfume, Baldini takes him in because Grenouille would be able to make him famous and rich. Therefore, this shows how Baldini believes that he is using Grenouille, but in actual fact Grenouille is using him. This is because he is learning special methods for making perfumes, pomades, etc.

Similarly, after Grenouille leaves the cave and the marquis de La Tallade-Espinasse believes he is using Grenouille to prove that his fluidum letale could cure a person. However, this benefitted Grenouille because he was able to clean himself up and at the same time he pretends to not being able to support the lavender perfume smell. Hence, Tallade Espinasse gives him access to a perfumery where he creates his first human odour perfume.  This shows how by marquis

After leaving Tallade Espinasse he goes to Madame Arnulfi’s perfumery and asks for her to hire him, after much convincing and debate she accepts him. During this time Grenouille learns new methods from Druot (previous journeyman) and then slowly Druot leaves Grenouille to do everything by himself. Druot enjoys this and sees himself as using him, but once again this benefits Grenouille because he gets privacy and so is able to hide the victims accessories and so he keeps his murdering in secrecy. Hence, he is also able to produce the most extraordinary perfume ever made without having Druot and Madame Arnulfi forcing him to sell the perfume. Grenouille becomes a great perfumer by using people, while at the same time they thought they were using him, therefore Grenouille benefitted a lot from these human nature actions people had towards him.

Süskind’s use of satire helps demonstrate that in the novel individuals can’t trust their own judgment. For instance when Richis is traveling with his daughter and they stop at the hotel, before he goes to bed he checks on Grenouille to see if he would be any threat to killing his daughter. When he sees him “sleeping” in the barn feels an innocent ambiance and thus believes that his daughter is safe. The next morning Richis judgment of Grenoiulle proves to have been wrong since he finds his daughter dead. Therefore this shows how individuals can’t trust their own judgment, this is supported as well at the end of the story when Grenouille is supposed to be executed and people feel a compassion of worship towards him and therefore let him free. This proves to have been a mistake because they let the real murderer free and instead kill an innocent man (Druot). Hence, this book exposes the weaknesses of human nature.


As humans we posses five senses and usually we do not see their significance, therefore this book is based on odour. Perfume makes people realize the importance of smell and how it is viewed different by various people in the story and then by the readers. 

Good & Bad

Throughout the book readers have to judge whether Grenouille is good or bad. For instance, do we feel sympathetic for him when he is sent from person to person because of his differences? And during these experiences when he is at Madame Gaillard's and the other kids bully him, do the readers feel sorry for him? Most likely so! In the first section of the book the readers are not exposed to Grenouille's abnormality therefore he seems as an innocent victim. Especially since he was born by a rotten fish stall and about to be left to die, he had always been lonely and had never been loved. However once Grenouille starts to develop supernatural power of olfactory senses, readers question his innocence. His olfactory senses make him become more peverted and extraordinary, which leads him to the murder of the red-haired girl. This is where readers start to wonder whether he is still good.

Later in the story, when Grenouille travels to Grasse, his love for scent develops further more. Thus it led him to his passion for possessing the scent of unique human odour. At the same time he becomes noticed by the public since he wears the perfume he makes from various sources, which casts the face of a murderer and conveys that he is an ordinary human to other people. This is when readers start to no longer feel compassionate for him since he is "superficial" by pretending to be innocent and getting people's respect, when he least deserves it. 

Towards the end after Grenouille killed 25 women, readers feel no sympathy for the merciless murderer. At the execution he persuades the crowd of his innocence through the use of the perfume which he extracted from the 25 women. This shows how there is an alternation in feeling between the people in the story and the readers. In the end, readers no longer pity Grenouille while the people admire him. 

In conclusion, the loneliness of Grenouille affects the readers first impression of him. At the start when he has no scent, he goes unnoticed. However, when he gains popularity and is acknowledged, readers do not feel the same about him. Therefore, good and bad plays a significant role in the story!

Symbols from Perfume


·      Perfume acts as a disguise for the sins of humanity as perfume makes you smells good, masking the bad scent of humans

·      Perfume can change how people perceive one another, for example when Grenouille wanted sympathy from others he put on a perfume that “smelled of watery milk and fresh soft wood…Once they caught a whiff of him the market women filled his pockets with nuts and dried pears because he seemed to them so hungry and helpless. “ (Page 190)

·      Grenouille understands the power of scents and perfumes, “Odors have a power of persuasion stronger than that of words, appearances, emotions, or will. The persuasive power of an odor cannot be fended off, it enters into us like breath into our lungs, it fills us up, imbues us totally.” (Page 82) That’s why he can make the most pure and engulfing perfume by joining the scents of young, beautiful virgins. The scents of all the girls combined make people view Grenouille as this wonderful, innocent person. He wanted to create this perfume to make himself appear virtuous and angelic and thus make people love him.

·      Perfume is an important symbol as it is subtle and over looked but has enormous effects; perfume can act as a mask of perfection. This is what Grenouille makes himself to be by creating the perfume from the odors of all the young girls.

Human Odor-

·      Susking portrays the human odor to smell like “a sweaty-oily, sour cheesy, quite richly repulsive mixture”. The bad scent of humans can represent the sinful nature of humanity.

·      The scent of humans could symbolize the true nature of humans, and as scent of humans is horrible and disgusting it depicts the true nature of humans, sinful and imperfect.

·      Also by humans not being able to smell their own and each others disgusting scents, shows how they are so engulfed in sin that they cannot even recognize it.

Red-haired girl-

·      The red haired girl and the other girls Grenouille murders symbolize innocence and purity

·      They were all young, beautiful virgins, they were not yet tainted by the destructive and sinful nature of humanity

·      They have the most wonderful and indescribable odors that Grenoille has ever smelled, as they are so pure.


·      The cave symbolizes Grenouille’s departure from society, he goes there to escape the stench of humanity

·      It is also a place where Grenouille’s olfactory senses are in concord, and for Grenouille because his olfactory senses are at peace, he feels as though he has been reborn. 

Social Context

The Social Context of “Perfume”

Perfume takes place in 18th century France, also known as the Age of Reason. “Represented a genesis (creation) in the way man viewed himself, the pursuit of knowledge, and the universe.” In this age, individuals had freedom to pursue happiness, and it is said to be the beginning of an open society. Starting in Germany, France, Britan and the Netherlands, it spread through much of Europe.

·      Age of Enlightenment – a period during the age of reason

o   Enlightenment – “The application of reason and rationality to previously held beliefs, in broader, clearer thinking.”

o   The scientific and reason based thought predominated this age.

o   Man was eager and free to explore their ideas.

o   Believed in perfection of humanity, based on reason and clear thinking (previously believed to be obtained only through grace after death).

o   Abandoned reliance on biblical truth and lost their fear of God – rationality and enlightenment became the new ‘gods’.

o   Focus on earth and nature, rather then miracles, prophecies, and religion.

·      Religious view on the Age of Reason

o   The new ideas and thought of man attacked Christian views. (Rejection of God, denial of miracles, etc.)

o   Man would applaud intellect, and disdain spirit.

o   They believed that God (if he even existed) was unknowable.

o   Nature showed all that needed to be known of God.

o   Man began to make his own theory of existence.

In the first page of the Novel, Patrick Suskind mentions a few names of ‘gifted abominations’. They are said to be the famous black guards who possessed arrogance, misanthropy, immortality, or wichidness.

·      Marquis De Sade: a French aristrocrat, revolutionary and novelist. He explored subjects such as rape, bestiality and necrophilia. He believed in extreme freedom, unstrained by morality, religion or law. He believed that most important thing in life was pleasure.

·      Louis de Saint-Just: French Revolutionary and military leader.  He was involved in the ‘Reign of Terror’. He had a stoical (indifferent, impassive) manner throughout his adult life.

·     Joseph Fouche: “Duke of Otranto” was a French statesman and Minister of Police under Napoleon Bonaparte.

·      Napoleon Bonaparte: a military and political leader of France, who later became Emperor of France. His actions shaped European politics in the early 19th century.

Also, on the first to second page, Suskind describes the situation and setting in the period.

In this quote, Suskind describes the society in 18th century France through their stench. He mentions almost every aspect of society in France during that period.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

historical context.

The novel is set after the death of Louis the XIV, in the eighteenth century, approximately, from 1735-1755. 1742 is taken as a reliable date as Madame Gaillard suffered her death 40 years after Grenouille left, in 1782. Grenouille was approximately seven years of age. He also died roughly when he was 20, thus the time span.

France of the 18th century was slightly smaller than the modern borders. One must notice that Perfume is based before the advent of the French revolution. The novel, as shown my the unfortunate instance of Madame Gaillard's death, was based around the start of the downfall of the French feudal system. Liberalism is creeping into to ideals of people, and socially, France is becoming more skeptical.

The time is also based after the 72 year reign of King Louis the XIV. His ideology of the divine right of kings and obsession with warfare led both the economy and social status in tatters, as he held absolute control, and his aristocrat class, in short, was incompetent. For Example, early 18th century saw a famine killing 2 million people. Culturally, however, France was chic. Its art, literature, furniture and perfume for that matter was fashionable throughout Europe. 

In 1744, France declared war on the English, and plan to invade. Their plan, however, failed as bad weather destroyed the fleet. They diverted their resources, and troops, to invade modern day netherlands, and the campaign was succesful, as they defeated a combined British, Dutch, Austrian and Hanoverian troops. The marshall complemented with this victory was Saxe.

Due to the French aggression, the Brits used their navy to harrass the French in the vicinity of India and West Indies. The casualties were high for France, and a huge percentage of trade revenue was lost in the region.

It seemed that the French government had their priorities towards war and not developing socially. The society however developed an anti government sentiment, and thus the dawn of the revolution came.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


In ‘The Outsider’, Meursault’s character is understood through events and relationships with the people around him. The protagonist of this story, Meursault, is the outsider, because his behavior is abnormal or different from the rest of the society.

We split these aspects of his life into parts to understand Meursault’s character better:



In ‘The Outsider’, we begin to understand Meursault’s character through the relationships he has with the people around him.

One of Meursault’s neighbors, Salamano, is first mentioned in chapter three when Meursault sees him beating his dog. From here, we learn that Meursault likes to observe people, but there is no sign of judging. Salamano once again appears in the next chapter when his dog goes missing. Meursault tells him to check the pound. This seems like kind words coming out of Meursault’s mouth, but he simply says this because it seems logical to check the pound.

Meursault also becomes closer to his other neighbor, Raymond. He likes to listen to Raymond, just because he has nothing better to do, and because Meursault finds Raymond’s stories interesting. In chapter three, when Meursault and Raymond are having some wine at the latter’s place, Meursault ends up writing a letter for Raymond. We can get a feeling that Meursault is a bit of a pushover, After writing the letter, Raymond claims that they’re now ‘mates’, and Meursault doesn’t mind that. Although Meursault is actually indifferent, he prefers to satisfy people rather than disappoint.

Marie is first introduced to the reader in chapter two of part one. In chapter four, Meursault narrates that he “really fancied her because she was wearing a pretty red and white striped dress and leather sandals. You could see the shape of her firm breasts and her suntanned face was like a flower.” Meursault certainly finds Marie attractive, but there is an emotional detachment in his feelings for her. This relationship revolves purely around sex and physical pleasure. The coldness and the lack of emotion towards Marie are described well on page 24: “She had her leg against mine, and I was fondling her breasts. Towards the end of the show I kissed her, but badly. Afterwards she came back to my place.” Meursault simply lists a chronology of events, and does not mention any emotion towards her. Through these descriptions of Marie, he appears indifferent. At the end of the novel he assumes Marie was either ill, dead, or has moved on to ‘a new Meursault’; it didn’t matter at all to him. When Marie asked him if they should get married, Meursault doesn’t mind, but they “could if she wanted to.” To Meursault, being married or not made no difference to him. He also states that he probably would have accepted the same proposal if it had come from another woman.



Meursault’s reaction towards his mother’s death is not a usual reaction you might express from most people. He is cold, distanced from the people around, and gives an impression that he doesn’t care about his own mother’s death.

At the funeral (direct reaction)

Since Meursault had to go to the funeral, he had to be absent from the work for two days. His boss wasn’t happy about it, so Meursault says, “It’s not my fault (p. 9) ” It gives an impression that the funeral is just becoming an “excuse” of being absent in work, than seeing his mother feeling grief for her and being emotional for her death. It shows that Meurasult is a cold character, and also shows that he is the character who doesn’t like to take blame, or feels blamed. He justifies himself a lot thought the novel.

Meursault refused to see his mother’s face at the funeral. When the caretaker asked him why not, he answered, “I don’t know. (p. 12)” because he didn't want to get the actual feeling of lost, and also trying to avoid being emotional.

Meursault also smoked at the funeral. He hesitates a little bit because he thought that he shouldn’t smoke in front of his mother. However soon after he said, “I thought it over, it really didn’t matter (p. 14)” and started to smoke. Meursault thought that “It didn’t matter” because his mother was dead, and this shows how he lacked grief and respect towards the death.

Meursault reflected the day of the funeral at the end of the chapter, “seemed so inevitable and natural that I don't remember any of it any more. (p. 22)” It gives a feeling that the funeral and his mother’s death didn’t affect Meurasault, because he spent his weekend like any of his other weekends, which is shown in the next chapter: “after all, nothing had changed. (p. 28)”, meaning that his mother’s death made no difference to his normal life.

At the police (how he talked about it later on)

Meursault gets arrested in Part 2 because he murdered an Arab. His Lawyer asks him about his unusual behavior at the funeral and asks him if he felt any grief at the funeral. Meursault answered, “I probably loved mother quite a lot, but that didn’t mean anything (p. 65)”. Like his response to Marie, he doesn’t really think love is good enough reason for doing something such as marrying and crying at the funeral. “I’d rather mother hadn’t died. (p. 65) ” His response is very calm, giving an impression that he is telling the truth, however he is lacking emotion.

Meursault is a cold character, however he seems to be a really honest man. He answered, “To a certain extent all normal people sometimes wished their loved ones were dead. (p. 65)” to the Lawyer’s question, which is quite odd to say this when you are arrested and talking to the lawyer who is trying to commute your sentence. Also the lawyer asked him if he could say that he’d controlled my natural feeling at the funeral. However, Meursault said “No, because it’s no true (p. 65)” shows that he values honesty than being declared not guilty. He didn’t really care about his reputation, and didn’t care about hiding his lack of emotion by crying at the funeral untruthfully.

Magistrate asked him if he loved his mother, and Meursault answered, “Yes, like everyone else. (p. 67)” He is quite an odd man, however he tries to be a normal person, just like everyone else.



Meursault keeps on observing what is going on around him. He is not panicking, and it seems like he is not that worried about him. He says, “I thought my case was very simple. (p. 63)” shows that he is calm, and quite objective about what he’d done. Examining magistrate told him how the law worked, but Meursault thought “At first I didn’t take him seriously (p. 64)” shows that he is not that interested in laws.

Talking with Lawyer

When Meursault meets his lawyer, he was about to shake his hand, but he decided not to, “but I remembered just in time that I’d killed a man. (p. 64)” shows that he is feeling guilty about what he’d done. He felt faith towards this Lawyer, and Meursault thanked him, showing that he is polite and respects him.

However after questioning about Meursault’s mother’s death, Lawyer was angry because he wasn’t pleased with Meursault’s answer. Meursault didn’t want that, but soon he said “But it was all really a bit pointless and I couldn’t be bothered. (p.66)” He didn’t really care about what lawyer thought about him.

Talking with magistrate

Magistrate tells him that God will forgive him if he believes God. However Meursault thought, “I realized at the same time that his was ridiculous after all, I was the criminal. ”  He felt meaningless being forgiven by someone or god, because he killed someone and admits that it is bad thing to do.



In chapter five of part two, Meursault gets moved to a new cell, where he does a lot of thinking. He suddenly remembers the only thing his mom had told him about his dad – that his dad had once gone to see a murderer being executed. His dad coming home and feeling nauseated disgusted him at first, but now Meursault understands it was completely natural. Now he realizes that executions “were the only thing a man could really be interested in! If I ever got out of prison, I’d go and watch all the executions there were.”  He then realizes that he is being irrational because he knew that he was not getting out of prison to see an execution.

We also learn that Meursault doesn’t mind dying. No matter when you die, even if it’s twenty years later, you’re going to die eventually. In fact, the thought of having to live for another twenty years scared Meursault.  However, when the chaplain came to talk to Meursault about believing in God, but Meursault has no interest. It doesn’t matter to Meursault whether he dies now or years later. He will face death in the belief that he will die outright, and he didn’t want to waste the last minutes of his life listening about someone he didn’t believe in.

Meursault is sure of himself, sure of everything, sure of his life, sure of the death that was imminent. This was his truth – that he’d been right, is right, and was always right. To Meursault, nothing mattered, and to him, everyone was condemned no matter how they lived their lives. He is satisfied with this life, and he doesn’t regret anything he’s done.


Important Quotes [PART 2]

The Outsider By Albert Camus

Important Quotes Explained (Part 2)

Chapter 1

Quote: “On my way out I was even going to shake his hand, but I remembered just in time that I’d killed a man.” (Page 64)

· Context: After the police questioned him, he was about to shake his hand but stopped himself.

· Explanation: The fact that Meursault “remembered just in time” that he had killed a man, shows how easily he could forget such an important event. It also helps to demonstrate that he is aware of what he has done, he is aware of his place in society now. Even though he feels no regret, he knows he has done something wrong. Showing his logical thinking once again.

Quote: “I probably loved mother quite a lot, but it didn’t mean anything. To a certain extent all normal people sometimes wished their loved ones were dead.”(Page 65)

· Context: When the lawyer asks Meursault if he had felt any grief on the day of his mother’s funeral, he answers that he got out of the habit of analyzing himself and he found it hard to answer the question

Explanation: Again this quote demonstrates Meursault being emotionally detached. He is not sure of what love is and he feels like it does not mean anything. Also by him saying that all normal people sometimes wished their loved ones were dead, shows how unusual a person he is. He cannot form any emotional based relationships with anyone. His relationship with Marie is more physical than anything, and his relationship with Raymond is convenient as they are both quite alike. Also by him making this statement it shows how nothing or no one means much to him, if they were gone or alive it wouldn’t affect him.

Chapter 2

Quote: “Anyway it was an idea of mother’s and she often used to repeat it, that you ended up getting used to everything.” (pg 75)

Context: When Meursault was talking about how he felt closed in inside the prison.

This quote tells the reader how Meursault easily gets use to everything. This is why Meursault gets use to prison easily and doesn’t miss his home that much. This may also be why he got use to the fact that his mother has died recently. He didn’t feel sad about the situation because his mother didn’t live with him and she wasn’t around anyways. The fact that it was his mother’s idea tells the reader that his mother had an influence on him.

Chapter 3

“I just had one impression: I was in a tram and all these anonymous passengers on the opposite seat were scrutinizing the new arrival to find his peculiarities.” (Pg.81)

  • Context: Mersault is going into the courtroom on a hot summer day, and as he sees the jury all looking at him, he has this impression (quote above). He replaces peculiarities with criminality, though he thinks they aren’t very different.
  • Explanation: This quote is showing that Mersault is beginning to become aware of the attention on him, though he doesn’t express sadness or embarrassment or guilt at this point. He is again observant to the people around him, as he has been so far in the book. However, before he would basically say his observances and leave it as that, but in this quote he is using his observations to compare it to another situation (a kind of metaphor) This shows the development of Mersault’s character throughout the book.

“I didn’t quite follow everything that happened after that, the drawing of lots by the jury, the questions put by the presiding judge to the layer, the prosecutor and the jury…” (Pg.83)

  • Context: This is during the court as Mersault’s case is being argued.
  • Explanation: This quote simply shows that Mersault has changed from the beginning of the book, because as he used to observe everything he saw, but this quote is an example of him not being observatory.

“For the first time in years, I stupidly felt like crying because I could tell how much all these people hated me” (Pg.87)

  • Context: The prosecutor is asking Mersault questions in front of the jury in the courtroom. And this happens as the Procecutor exclaimed, ‘Oh! No, that’s quite sufficient,’ in such a resounding voice and with such a triumphant glance in my direction that…(quote)’
  • Explanation: This shows his “people pleaser” personality and the fact that he knows these people hate him makes him sad. It is one of the rare times in the book where he expresses his emotions, making it very significant. The fact that he thought the cry was ‘stupid’ shows his dislike of emotion, but it showed because he could not avoid it this time.

“Yes, this was the time of day when, long ago, I used to feel happy. What always awaited me then was a night of easy, dreamless sleep…As if a familiar journey under a summer sky could as easily end in prison as in innocent sleep” (Pg.94)

  • Context: Mersault is leaving the courtroom to return back to the prison, and the few moments of freedom makes him think back on his life.
  • Explanation: In this quote Mersault realizes that he was actually happy in his life before the prison. He also realizes that it was too late to notice – because now he was in prison and no longer had the chance to be happy. It is expressing is realization of what happiness was and that one life is not always equal to another, but can actually be very different. Compared to the quote in chapter 5 (part 1), where he believes that all lives are the same, this quote is saying the opposite, and his ideas contrast. It shows his development as a character and he is beginning to gain the same human emotions that he had lacked before.

Chapter 4

Quote: “…I couldn’t help admitting that he was right. I didn’t much regret what I’d done” (Page 97)

· Context: When the prosecutor announced that Meursault had not once expressed any regret, Meursault agreed.

· Explanation: Regretting killing another person, is something almost anyone would feel if they committed such a crime, but Meursault doesn’t. This shows again how he doesn’t understand the extent of his actions. It also shows how honest he is, and how he never lies. He doesn’t care whether his honesty, will give him a harsher sentence, he speaks what he feels is the truth. This is shown by him agreeing with the prosecutor, because it is the truth. He doesn’t grasp all logic though, as he understands the crime he has committed but not why it is so regretful. As later Meursault is surprised at why the prosecutor was so furious about what he has done.

Quote: “He announced that I had no place in a society whose most fundamental rules I ignored, nor could I make an appeal to the heart when I knew nothing of the most basic human reactions.” (Page 99)

· Context: What the prosecutor concluded of Meursault, from the trial

· Explanation: This quote summarizes how other people in the novel view Meursault other than his friends. Those who don’t understand him and his ways are threatened by him. They view him as a danger to society because he is different. People view him as cold, and without a heart because he did not cry at his mother’s funeral. For that, people view him as lacking the most basic human reactions. Even to the readers, he may seem indifferent but this is because he doesn’t understand emotion very well. Some people see Meursault as a monster, while others view him to be kind and honest person.

Chapter 5

Quote: “As if this great outburst of anger had purged all my ills, killed all my hopes, I looked up at the mass of signs and starts in the night sky and laid myself open for the first time to the benign indifference of the world. And finding it so much like myself in fact so fraternal, I realized that I’d been happy, and that I was still happy For the final consummation and for me to feel less lonely, my last wish was that there should be a crowd of spectators at my execution and that they should greet me with cries of hatred.” (pg 117)

Context: Last lines of the novel, after his meeting with the chaplain.

Meursault fully accepts the impossibility of avoiding his death. He realized that he is happy with his position in society and doesn’t mind that he is a criminal. As he says, “to feel less lonely”, shows that he just wants to feel a connection with society. He accepts that the only connection he will feel with society is in the form of anger on his execution day and he doesn’t mind that.

Narrative Style&Linguistic Features

Narrative Style

Camus chose to write this novel as a first person narrative. It is Meursault who recounts what happens, what he feels, and what he sees, expressing himself in short, compact sentences. This makes the character of Meursault believable to the reader as we get insight into his reasoning. Meursault is considered as an observer, where he sees the surface but does not analyze the undercurrents. Unlike many first-person narrators, Meursault makes no attempt to filter his account through an awareness of its meaning.

Linguistic Features

The Outsider is separated into two parts: Part One and Part Two
Part One opens with the death of mother and ends with the murder of the Arab. By separating the story in to two parts, the reader can see how Meursault is affected by various deaths. There are three major deaths in this novel, at the beginning, middle and the end;
  1. Meursault's mother dies
  2. Death of Arab
  3. Meursault is executed
By including the image of death throughout the novel, the reader can predict, or foreshadow what is going to happen to Meursault at the end of the novel. It can also be seen as a way for the reader to distinguish if Meursault is actually an outsider. At the beginning of the novel, when Meursault's mother had died, it is possible to see Meursault as an ordinary person, who does not want to show his feelings, therefore hiding his sadness within him. The lack of emotion or ambition throughout Part One does not greatly represent that Meursault is an outsider. He wrote the letter because his friend asked him, and he has desire to be with a woman. If the story was not titled "the Outsider", it is probably hard to tell that Meursault is abnormal. However, in Part Two, the reader notices a clear difference in Meursault. Everything he claims seems to prove that he was guilty for the murder, and he does not regret in killing the Arab. Camus separated the novel into two parts to emphasize the abnormality of Meursault compared to ordinary people.

The sentences used in this novel are short, unconnected statements, which emphasize the boredom or the lack of enthusiasm in Meursault's actions. The style used emphasizes the narrative style, which contribute to creating Meursault's character. Even though there are no jargon used, his description is very detailed, which reflect the character of Meursualt. 

The sentences gets even shorter towards the ends of the book, especially in page 102.
  • The judges returned. The jury was very rapidly read a series of questions. I heard 'guilty of murder...', 'premeditation...', 'extenuating circumstances.'
This passage shows that Meursualt is eager to hear the punishment put on him. The short sentences represent rush or impatience of Meursault. It can also represent the built up of tension before Meursualt is being taken away.

The story is chronological, which allows the reader to follow the order of events, especially because of Meursault's descriptions. Meursault does not seem to care much about the time, or anything around him in Part One, however, during his imprisonment, he becomes more aware of the time. 

There are words or phrases that are being repeated several times in the novel. Some examples include:
  • "It's not my fault"
  • "I couldn't be bothered"
  • "it annoyed me"
By repeating the same phrase several times in the novel, it creates the character of Meursault, and makes his character believable. 
Another technique used by Camus is creating snap shots of scenes in page 66:
  • "Raymond, the beach, the swim, the fight, the beach again, the little spring, the sun and the five shots."
By listing out what has happened to Meursault before the murder, it creates an image that he is confused about what has actually happened and trying to think back at what he has done. To the reader, this list of events create snap shots, (that we can visualize in our heads) which is like one scene of a movie. 

Camus uses wide range of vocabulary to describe the situation that Meursault is in, making him an observer. 
  • "The Arabs were advancing slowly and they were already much nearer" (page 54)
By using the word "advancing", it sounds as though the Arabs are an army, approaching Meursault. This can also create a thought of a fight, building the tension before the gunshot. 

English translation & Significance of the title

The Outsider is originally written in French, and has been translated into English by several authors. There are three main translations of The Outsider:

  1. Stuart Gilbert
  2. Joseph Laredo
  3. Matthew Ward

Three translations differ much in tone (for example Gilbert's translation is much formal) but more importantly, the opening of the story is different for each translation.

  1. Gilbert's translation: "Mother died today. Or, maybe, yesterday; I can't be sure. The telegram from the Home says: YOUR MOTHER PASSED AWAY. FUNERAL TOMORROW. DEEP SYMPATHY. Which leaves the matter doubtful; it could have been yesterday."
  2. Ward's translation: "Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don't know. I got a telegram from the home: Mother deceased. Funeral tomorrow. Faithfully yours. That doesn't mean anything. Maybe it was yesterday."
  3. Laredo's translation: "Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don't know. I had a telegram from the home: 'Mother passed away. Funeral tomorrow. Yours sincerely.' That doesn't mean anything. It may have been yesterday."

Not only the translation affects the way the story is written, but the title differs depending on where the story is translated, and who it is translated by. The Outsider, originally L'Étranger can be translated in three different titles:

  1. The Foreigner
  2. The Stranger
  3. The Outsider

The Foreigner
  • Meursault is a French Algiers
  • He is a foreigner to the land , but text establishes that in fact his family has lived there fore several generations
  • Anti-heroic protagonist is culturally foreign to Algeria
  • Meursault is detached - foreigner to society, to human customs
  • Most fitting considering the time it was written and existential nature of the novel

The Stranger
  • Meursault is a stranger among other people because he is so isolated from them - mentally, emotionally, spiritually and by the end of the text, physically (because he is imprisoned)
  • Implies that Meursault has been viewed as a "strange" or "odd" person
  • Meursault is a stranger even to those who think they know him
  • But this can be seen as a wrong interpretation - Meursault is, if anything, ordinary - because he works like every one and goes out with his friends and girlfriend like everyone else
  • He is not really a stranger, but rather an observer without an emotion connection to the world

The Outsider
  • Meursault feels alien to the Arab (Muslim) society in which he lives as a colonist
  • As he is oblivious of the motifs he lives, he is not restricted by any meaning exterior to his sensory experience, a character trait rendering him foreign to his contemporaries: thus, most English translations are rendered as The Stranger and infrequently The Outsider

Copyright © 2009 ib world literature. All rights reserved. Theme by Laptop Geek. | Bloggerized by FalconHive.