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.

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