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!

1 comment:

  1. This is wonderful! Yay the IB....


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