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A murderer’s profile or a true artisan’s journey?

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer is a book written by Patrick Suskind, published in 1985. As with any great literary works of our time, novels, such as perfume, are bound to have been made into a movie. And so it was the fate of Perfume to have been made into a movie along with a lot more novels that had great impact in our generation. The book is about Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, an orphan boy who was supposed to have lived in 17th century France. Quite unlike any character that has ever been created, Grenouille, in Suskind’s novel is as much as a hero as he is an anti-hero.

Like any hero, a reader’s heart goes out for him as he made his way into the world that was created for him. From the time that he has almost died because of his own mother’s lack of desire to have him, until his journey to discovering the perfect scent, he was someone to sympathize with. At the same time, his ceaseless pursuit, although quite macabre, of looking for, and creating scents sends readers repulsed by his ways. At the start of the story, we were made to see Grenouille’s difficult past.

He was brought into the world quite unwanted by his own mother who, if not for the kindness (or perhaps, the nosiness) of bystanders, have probably had a short life span. At the same time, even in a short period of time and with few sentences, his uniqueness has already been established. Grenouille ironically didn’t smell of anything. For someone who has made it a point to know all the scents conceivable, it is quite interesting to find that he was not born with a scent of his own. Unlike the people he has been obsessed with, who have their own scents, Grenouille sadly doesn’t have one distinct smell.

He is a chameleon in terms of scents, in that when applied with perfume, the pure form of it is eventually smelled, and not it’s harmony with an individual’s scent. This was shown in the book through Madame Galliard’s complaint early on. She claimed that because Grenouille did not smell of anything, he must be possessed by the devil himself. Grenouille’s lack of olfactory individuality may advantageous as well, considering one’s own scent may influence the outcome and perception of an individual scent.

At this stage of Grenouille’s fictional life, Suskind has already shown the importance of scent in the book. Suskind insisted that it is always about the scent of a person, not what you see or hear, or any other analogies of literary to life. For Suskind, in the form of Grenouille, the world is composed of olfactory stimuli that serve as the axis that makes the world go around. Suskind’s genius and confident language made this sense the most important, if one wants to learn the individuality not only of animate objects but of inanimate as well.

Who would think that rocks and wood have their own unique scents? Grenouille’s passion turned obsession In the course of the story, we see smells, quite literally, unfold before our eyes. In the beginning, Grenouille was content in learning all kinds of scents and its names and taking in as much of them as he could in a given time. It is through this passion that he, with all his resourcefulness, managed to meet his mentor in perfumery, Monsieur Baldini.

Giuseppe Baldini, although he did not make Grenouille know more about smells, taught him the art of distillation and perfumery. With his uncanny understanding of scents and ways on how to combine them in such perfect harmony, instituted Baldini once more as the greatest perfumer in Paris. As time progressed, his desire no longer was about any fragrant and manufactured scents, but that of something that has yet to be named and discovered. One day, his perceptible nose caught whiff of something that will turn to his obsession with humanity.

The scent that started it all From Suskind “…so rich, so balanced, so magical that every perfume that Grenouille had smelled until now, every edifice of odours that he had so playfully created within himself, seemed at once to be utterly meaningless. A hundred thousand odours seemed worthless in the presence of this scent. This one scent was the higher principle, the pattern by which the others must be ordered. It was pure beauty. ” (p. 44) It is in this passage that we are introduced about how odors, specifically, human odors, affect Grenouille.

It is now no longer about jasmine or bergamot, or any of his other memorized scents; it is something that he perceived to be the scent of all scents. From the passage above, we sense the imperative and poetic desire to possess the odor that Grenouille smelled for the first time. From this we get the idea that although greediness is part of his want to acquire the scent, the brooding and obsessive quality of it, we also get the feeling that for him, it is not about the person, but of the odor the person possesses. For Grenouille, everything is translated in the atom of scent emitted by the one that interests him.

It is nothing personal, as what people say, it is just what is present in the moment, which in this instance, is an odor that excites him. From the point of him getting to know about this scent for the first time, to the first time he committed murder, readers stare in the magical, although grotesque, way of the death of the first woman Grenouille smelled. “She was frozen with terror at the sight of him that he had plenty of time to put his hands to her throat. She did not attempt to cry out, did not budge, did not make the least motion to defend herself.

He, in turn, did not look at her, did not see her delicate, freckled face, her red lips, her large sparkling green eyes, keeping his eyes closed tight as he strangled her. For her had only one concern – not to lose the least trace of her scent. ” (pp. 44-45) This passage suggests that Grenouille is not capable of looking at a human beyond the odor they possess. For him, it was about inhaling the scent this woman possesses. Even at the time that he was strangling her, his focus was not of death, or of the fact that he is depriving this woman of vital air needed to live, but of what he can get from the woman, in the olfactory sense of it.

“He thrust his face to her skin and swept his flared nostrils across her, from belly to breast, to neck, over her face and hair, and back to her belly, down to her genitals, to her thighs and white legs. He smelled her over from head to toe, he gathered up the last fragments of her scent under her chin, in her navel, and in the wrinkles inside her elbow. And after he had smelled the last faded scent of her, he had crouched beside her for a while, collecting himself, for he was brimful with her.

He did not want to spill a drop of her scent. ” (p. 45) From the passage, we are witness to the way Grenouille hungrily devours odors. He wants to know and be the only one to know about these scents. He likewise wants to drink every particle of smell his subject possesses without wasting anything. Selfishness aside, we see the poetry behind Grenouille’s pursuits, and not the madness behind it. It is innocent, in that what he desires is pure and unadulterated, however methods or means he takes to achieve it.

This simple and lyrical execution of Suskind’s character through words and perceptions already create the roadmap to understanding Grenouille’s persona. From a perfume connoisseur to a murderer From the first time that he committed murder, to his serial killings that lead him to discover essences that he longed for, we are all witness to his transformation from simply being an expert to someone who could be considered a cold-blooded murderer. We must understand that at the beginning alone, Grenouille himself did not possess the human odor that all of us possess.

At a point in the book, we were revealed the fascination of Grenouille, and his desire to capture the scent of humanity. He was never interested in the scents of women who have been “smelled” beforehand. He was always on the prowl for virgins, those whose possesses scents that have never been smelled before. We see that his pursuit has never been to intimidate, to scare or even, to kill, but simply, to capture the scents. The fear and deaths seem to be coincidental effects of his goal of finding the perfect scent that will ensnare the world.

So what is he then? Is Grenouille simply a misunderstood soul, or is he really culpable of what he did? While this paper doesn’t serve to answer this question, the author would still like to give recommendations. The answer is moot. Murder is murder, however prettily disguised it is. Given that fact, one can simply conclude that he is indeed culpable of his actions. At the same time, like with a lot of misunderstood geniuses, he is likewise a soul whose exceptionality cannot be denied. Reference: Suskind, P. (2001) Perfume: Story of a Murderer London: Vintage

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