Perfume and We: Lack of Knowledge in Society

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Perfume and We: Lack of Knowledge in Society Knowledge is a vital importance to humanity, without it, there will be no humanity. It is the foundation of many things such as morality, emotion, skill, and many more. In the novels Perfume and We, there is a lot of satirical use to mock knowledge. Both authors of We and Perfume characterize society and the protagonist to mock the knowledge of society and make the protagonist a superior character. Grenouille is the historic prodigy of Paris because he is “gifted” with a heightened sense of smell that he uses to make incredible perfumes.

Baldini is a representative of society and is the untalented perfumer that gained success from Grenouille when he was hired to create perfumes for him. Not any of the artists in the book were as incredibly artistic as Grenouille and this is satirical because Grenouille is perceived as the wicked and ferocious character that lacks the enthusiasm of common success. Instead, Baldini uses him to become the best perfumer in Paris. This mocks the knowledge of society because Baldini lacks the capability to become a true artist as Grenouille or at least Pelissier, “The perfume was disgustingly good.

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That miserable Pelissier was unfortunately a virtuoso. A master, to heaven’s shame, even if he had never learned one thing a thousand times over, Baldini wished he had created it himself, this Amor and Psyche. ” (Suskind 36) Baldini was a desperate perfumer and desperate enough to mimic another perfumer’s successful product. In the book Baldini was characterized as a perfume-making fiasco, “Baldini would take of his blue coat drenched in frangipani, sit down at his desk and wait for inspiration. The inspiration would not come. He would then hurry over to the cupboard with its hundreds of vials and start mixing them haphazardly.

The mixture would be a failure. ” (Suskind 52) The comparison of perfumers and the discouragement of Baldini is the paradigm of knowledge in society. In Perfume, Suskind shows the “odor of humanity” as a mockery of knowledge to society because the author describes the stench that walks, talks, and lives everywhere in Paris. The stench is described by the author, “People stank of sweat and unwashed clothes; from their mouths came the stench of rotting teeth, from their bellies that of onions, and from their bodies, if they were no longer very young, came the stench of rancid cheese and sour milk and tumorous disease. (Suskind 3) Even though the author describes the stink from fish, sewers, and human intervention, these things are being controlled by people and it also describes the ignorance from people, “For in the eighteenth century there was nothing to hinder bacteria busy at decomposition, and so there was no human activity, either constructive or destructive, no manifestation of germinating or decaying life that was not accompanied by stench. ” (Suskind 4) In other words, people had no concern of eradicating the stench that Grenouille is able to smell in the streets.

This is satirical because Grenouille knows that even when people try to hide their odor with artificial smells or perfume, he can still smell their natural stink that people will perpetually have. Suskind implies that the race of humans is the epicenter of disgusting stink in Paris. They are ignorant about their lifestyle, the stink that grows from and within them. They do not realize the fact that they are naturally ugly by means of scent. In We, knowledge is based on mathematics.

Mathematics is truth and always has the correct answer which is concrete knowledge. When one applies math they include formulas, rules, and principles. The knowledge in math is all systematic and pre-known for a mathematician to calculate and solve. A paragon of society in We and mathematics is that they both have no freedom. Mathematics is inherent in the “utopian society” as they assemble as a “unit”, “…everyone was already all assembled, everyone was in their places, all the honeycombs of the gigantic glass hive were filled. (Zamyatin 172) Another very evident example is that every person is known as “numbers” such as D-503 or I-330. The names in this society are praised numbers and they do not find any grandeur of fancy or fashionable names. In opposition, mathematics has no emotion and no freedom. The society presents no emotion because they were brainwashed into a system of anti-freedom and satirically approve of it. D-503 may be a character representing society but he is a dynamic character of the book as he becomes educated and isolated from society.

Emotion is knowledge, it is art and without it, there wouldn’t be poems, paintings, literature and a lot more that makes life more fulfilling. The mockery of knowledge in society is the disappearance of emotion and their transformation to machines. Another example for the society’s impassiveness in We, is their lack of adolescence that makes their unquestionable notions of the future. The society knows much of knowledge, but only knowledge that is based to what is given to them by The Benefactor, through The Integral.

They do not empty the mind to learn from new things to experience and discover because they are not naive. In this case, to be a child is to become unwise so that you can become wise, figuratively, in order to fill the cup the cup must be empty. D-503 represents society in the initial part of the book because he gradually becomes a “child”. To become naive one way is to question the future by asking “what if? ” or “what next? ” and ponder about their life to have an idea of what’s it going to be and what’s going to happen next.

They do not have the mind capacity to evolve in knowledge and they certainly do not have the freedom to evolve. They’re omitted will to discover is a childish feature that Zamyatin describes, “Children are the only bold philosophers. And bold philosophers are invariably children. Exactly, just like children, we must always ask, ‘And what next? ’”(Zamyatin 135) Discovery is a main source of knowledge, and if they are not free to have contact with their dubious notions, they will lack the intelligence from personal discovery or philosophy.

Both Grenouille and D-503, the protagonists of each novel, were characterized as special beings in the novels and these characteristics are satirical to the knowledge of society. As the novel progresses, D-503 becomes a character that is different from the society because he has more knowledge of emotion and revolution. Grenouille is distinct from society because he has concealed knowledge of what is ugly in human nature. Both authors successfully characterize and mock society and the protagonist to improve the main character.

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Perfume and We: Lack of Knowledge in Society. (2018, Feb 21). Retrieved from

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