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Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

The symbols and themes in Perfume by Patrick Suskind
by

Javia Headley

on 14 December 2012

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Transcript of Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Themes and Symbols Perfume:The Story of a Murderer Dark Humor Inadequacy of Humanity Caves and Castles Quest for Perfection The Sense of Smell as the Most Important of the Senses Gullibility of Man Grenouille's Inhumanity The demise of the characters Madame Gaillard, Monsieur Grimal, Giuseppe Baldini, marquis de La Taillade-Espinasse, and Drout are meant to by humorous in a dark way. Madame Gaillard works hard to save herself from dying alone in a home amongst others that were dying, however, she cannot escape her fate. This is, in a way, a repayment for sending Grenouille to his death. Monsieur Grimal, who drowns Grenouille's humanity, drowns in a river. Baldini's attempt to drive Grenouille away form civilization and keep all of Grenouille's perfuming secrets to himself is ironic because a day later, his house, which is in a very esteemed place in town, and therefore civilization, falls into the river with him and all of Grenouille's secrets. La Taillde-Espinasse's death is darkly humorous because he claims that by traveling to the top of the mountain he will be forever young, but, when he travels to the mountain, he dies because of freezing temperatures. His failure to prove his theory contrasts with the success of Grenouille's perfume. When Drout meets Grenouille he is portrayed as a man that embodies sex and the while Grenouille is portrayed as a psychotic killer. This contrasts with Drout's demise because in the end, Grenouille becomes the epitome of sex while Drout is arrested as the criminal. In the book Grenouille meets a lot of inadequate people. Madame Gaillard is devoid of any emotion; Grimal treats Grenouille as nothing more than an animal; Baldini treats Grenouille as an highly efficient machine; the Marquis de La Taillade-Espinasse has ridiculous notions about the world that are nowhere near plausible; and Madame Arnulfi only cared about two things --sex and money. Their inability to correctly assess and carry out situations overshadows all of their good qualities. The exaggeration of these terrible characteristics paints the picture that everyone is mentally or emotionally inadequate. Caves: When Grenouille leaves society for seven years he stays in a cave. Caves are often associated with the emergence from a woman's wombs and the ideas of rebirth. When he emerges from the cave he looks like a beast. This symbolizes his transformation from man to cold-blooded killer. Caves also symbolizes sanctuary or refuge. The cave is also Grenouille's refuge from society.

Castles: While in the cave, Grenouille spends his time in his "purple castle." The purple castle is a figment of his imagination that serves as a means for him to recall his favorite scents. Castles often symbolize a refuge as well, however, it also holds a fantasy aspect which foreshadows that the castle, like all fantasies, will reach timely demise. The fact that the castle is purple gives the castle a calming effect. While living in Paris his life was always busy. This is a stark contrast to his life in the purple castle.

These two symbols relate to the theme because the cave emphasizes Grenouille's transformation into inhumanity and the castle and the color purple's royal aspects highlights his quest for perfection. The sense of smell is portrayed as the most important of the senses. Suskind argues that when you fall in love with someone, it is not because of their personality or their appearance, but rather because you like their scent; when you loathe someone, it is simply because you cannot stand their scent. The sense of smell is unappreciated, even though it is the reason we are able to function in daily life. Grenouille, Baldini, and La Taillade-Espinasse all search for perfection. Grenouille searches for it in his perfumes, Baldini in money, and La Taillade-Espinasse in his theories. In the end, all of their quest fails. This shows that the quest for perfection is doomed for failure. The people that are presented in this book are very gullible. They are easily swayed by the concoctions that Grenouille prepares with the soul purpose of tricking others. They are easily swayed when one of their main senses, the one they rely on daily, is corrupted. This presents man as gullible and incompetent. The idea that differences make you inhuman is a reoccurring theme in this book. Society is so shallow that any differences turn men inhuman. Madame Gaillard's lack of emotion makes her inhuman. Grenouille's lack of scent makes him inhuman. Grimal's lack of sympathy made him inhuman. Laure Richis' (the girl whose scent Grenouille falls in love with) inexplicable beauty makes her inhuman. These differences, although they are supposed to create the necessary difference for societal functions, creates a rift between the normal and the abnormal.
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