The interactive oral helped me develop a deeper understanding of the cultural and contextual considerations of ‘Perfume’. Specifically, I learned about Jean-Baptiste Grenouille’s birth in the street markets of Paris.
Grenouille, the protagonist of the novel Perfume, possesses a superhuman sense of smell while others rely on sight. He uses this extraordinary ability to corrupt the innocence of twenty-five virgins, taking away their purity, all in the pursuit of creating his ultimate scent. Throughout the novel, Grenouille is likened to a tick, an external parasite found on mammals that can transmit diseases to humans.
Perfume by Suskind depicts Grenouille as a parasite, as he relies on others for sustenance and brings their doom once he distances himself from them. Grenouille utilizes his mother for his birth but disposes of her when she becomes useless. He cunningly convinces Baldini to impart his knowledge of perfumery.
Baldini’s house in the Seine collapses, as described in the novel by Suskind in a dark tone, “The tick has scented blood…now it let itself drop, for better or for worse,” representing Grenouille’s parasite-like traits. The narrative also touches upon the theme of religion.
Suskind draws a comparison between Grenouille and Jesus, as both isolate themselves from society. Grenouille, like Jesus, withdraws to a cave to connect with the divine and ready himself for his upcoming trial. Likewise, like Jesus, he readies himself for his demise in Paris.
According to the narrative, Grenouille perceives himself as a deity. He becomes embraced by society the moment he accidentally douses himself with perfume. The villagers in Paris instantly venerate him, treating him like a divine entity. Suskind implies that deceptive figures can manipulate human conduct in this particular scene.
Grenouille’s decision to be devoured by the villagers is symbolic, much like how Jesus offered himself to God to forgive sinners. While some perceive Grenouille to be various things in the novel, I see him as a hero. Rather than continually manipulating others, Grenouille willingly allows himself to be devoured by his own people. This is because he does not value the artificial love of society. This prompts readers to contemplate what they worship and why, as they may also have been deceived by false Gods like the media.