Wednesday, May 20, 2009

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.

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