PERFUME: The Story of a Murderer
Jean-Baptiste Grenouille was born with a gift – an extraordinary sense
of smell. This enables him to become the greatest, if unrecognized,
perfumer in eighteenth-century France. Yet Grenouille was born without a
smell of his own that would mark him as human. Thus he sought to create
the perfect scent that would make men and women fall on his feet and
worship him – a scent made from virgins on the brink of womanhood.
Suskind successfully evokes the atmosphere of eighteenth-century Paris
by describing the stench of its streets littered with refuse and the
odor of its thousands of humans living in close quarters, and he
contrasts these with fragrances from the city’s perfumeries that
intrigue the reader’s nose – roses and orange blossoms and jasmine and
storax… In the middle he places the young Grenouille, eager to
experience and catalog in his mind all smells, good and bad, in
Later Grenouille turns this passion into the creation
of the perfect scent, regardless of the means needed to achieve it. In
doing so he seeks affirmation of his identity and acceptance from the
people who in the past ignored him at best and used him for their own
ends at worst. He realizes, too late, that his hatred for the same
people has surpassed his need for their acceptance, and his success
Instead of hatred or revulsion, one feels pity
for Grenouille and the circumstances that shaped him into what he is.
And one is left with a question – Does the need to please the self
ultimately stem from the need to please others?