Perfume by Patrick Suskind

October 24, 2017 General Studies

Jean-Baptiste Grenouille As a newborn left to die by his unmarried fishmonger mother, Grenouille cried and was heard by bystanders and rescued. His mother was executed for her crime. He was taken in by the church, which paid for him to be raised by a woman, Madame Gaillard, among two dozen other orphans. When the parish stopped paying for his room and board, Madame Gaillard, an emotionally cold woman because of a head injury, gave him to Grimal the tanner as an apprentice. As a tanner’s apprentice, Grenouille has back-breaking and dangerous work to perform every day, and he is treated no better than a domestic animal.

During this time, Grenouille gets his first taste of freedom, and he comes to learn that he is more attuned to scents than others are. This leads him to become an apprentice for Baldini, a perfumer. Grenouille becomes so obsessed with smells that he finds a young teenage girl and kills her–just so that he may smell her scent. While with Baldini, Grenouille proves to be a genius at scent-making. He leaves Baldini as a journeyman perfumer, and he goes to live in a mountain cave alone for seven years.

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Grenouille discovers that he has no scent of his own although everyone else in the world does. When Grenouille comes back to the world, he makes various personal scents for himself, and he thus gets people to react to him how he chooses. Since he knows that the most lovable scent in the world is produced by teenage girls, he kills twenty-five of them and extracts their scents to make a cologne for himself. He is captured for these crimes, but he escapes execution because he puts on the scent. Everyone magically believes him to be innocent, so he walks away free.

He thengoes to Paris, puts on the scent, and lets the mob kill him. A “gifted and abominable personage” (3), Grenouille is a character of severe emotional limitation uncompensated by his super olfactory capabilities. Since he was never wanted or loved (and, according to the novel, could not be loved because human love is produced almost exclusively in response to personal scent, of which he has none), he feels no love toward other human beings. He extracts scent from his victims with no more emotion than if they were flowers.


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