The Role of Women in Perfume and the Assault

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The Role of Women in Perfume and The Assault

In most cases, women are portrayed either as mother, lovers or people that fulfill men’s sexual needs. Both Perfume by Patrick Suskind and The Assault by Harry Mulisch is no exception. However, the reader might notice that in both novels women are portrayed in a flat, two-dimensional way and yet, paradoxically, have a significant symbolic value. The women of these novels seem to project the protagonists’ needs for these kinds of love and without them the novel would not exist. Therefore, they are not important for who they are, but rather for what they represent- the maternal and sexual love for men.

In The Assault, Anton’s mother barely appears in the novel and yet we can notice how her subtly strong character had left a mark on Anton’s life. Her importance lays in what she represents in his childhood memory- a strong woman who is the core of the family. “ … She had a cavity in her tooth that could not be treated just then; to relieve the pain she had found a leftover clove in the kitchen to put on the sore spot, just as her mother and grandmother used to do. She sat up straight, but her husband across the table was bent over, reading a book.” (Mulish,10) Though this is a little detail that Mulisch had added, it characterizes her by inferring that she was strong. A contributing factor could be the setting of the novel. They were in time of war and the circumstances force her to be strong. We can also see a contrast between the mother and the father, the father was bending while she was sitting straight up. This infers that she was the more dominant figure. Therefore, even though Anton had lost both parents. The reader notices that Anton later on seeks Truus and Saskia to replace her, but does not search for anyone to replace his father.

Truus who is also barely appears in the novel is a proof of how Anton never fully recovered of losing his mother. She was present in a time where he...
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