To What Extent Does Patrick Suskind Develop Grenouille's Character Throughout the Novel Through the Description of Scents?

Topics: Odor, Olfaction, Smell Pages: 5 (1834 words) Published: January 12, 2011
Throughout the novel Perfume by Patrick Suskind, there is an obvious use of literary devices used to describe the scents which Grenouille, the protagonist, smells, the way in which Grenouille smells aromas, as this is different to the ‘average’ persons scent capacity, and the relevance of the aroma, as he emphasizes those smells which have an impact in the book through a more vivid and specific explanation. This will be a comparison of two passages for the novel, one from the beginning of Grenouille’s life, and one from the end, in order to obtain a comparison in the description of scents through the novel. Suskind uses devices such as metaphors, italics, and juxtaposition, to name a few, to highlight the smell or aroma which Grenouille witnesses, and apply this to the theme of the novel. However, we can see through a close analysis of two excerpts from the book, one from near the beginning and one from the end, Suskind develops the character of Grenouille through the description of scents throughout the novel as the protagonist matures. In the first extract, is a passage extracted from the introduction of the novel. In this extract the severity of the stench is portrayed in the region of the France where Grenouille was born, Paris and the ‘People stank of sweat and unwashed clothes’. In this portion of the novel, they go on to describe the birth of Grenouille. He was rejected by is mother, and left to die; however, whilst in a pile of rotting fish, he was discovered and saved. This passage sets the tone for the rest of the novel, and also describes the setting, which welcomed Grenouille into the world. The ‘stench’ described seems to display the dismal future which is implied to already be set for Grenouille even before his birth. This is applicable to the novel as a whole as this aids the reader in expecting a dull future from Grenouille and setting a dismal tone for the rest of the book. This passage shows the lack of opportunity available to Grenouille at his birth, and helps to explain to the reader why Grenouille would turn out the way in which he did, and what fuels him to make the decisions he has made based on his past, and the environment, which he is engrossed in. The second extract comes from the very ending of the novel. Throughout the novel, Grenouille had been trying to make the perfect scent, and although this involved killing young virgins, being accused of murdering the virgins, and almost being hung, he continued to strive for the perfect scent. This quote comes from the very last scene, in which, after making the perfect scent, Grenouille goes on to travel until he finds a group of people sitting by a fire. He is aware of the effects of his perfume, and yet, he puts on this ‘perfect’ scent he has created, leading to his death by the group of people by the fire. Upon putting on the ‘perfect’ scent, Grenouille was eaten by the group of people, which had witnessed this smell. This quote takes place right before his consumption but it represents the last moments of Grenouille. In this extract, Suskind explains the reaction of the group by the fire, as opposed to the actual smell itself. This shows maturity within the text, as rather than describing the basic components of the smell, the author goes on to describe the reactions of witnesses to the scent, which Grenouille has worked his entire life to create.

The first extract is from the beginning of Grenouille’s life and describes the environment to which he is born, ‘the eighteenth century’ where ‘there was nothing to hinder bacteria busy at decomposition’, while the second extract is from the last moments before the death of Grenouille. In the first extract there are simplistic literary devices used, and other literary features used are minimal and basic, representative of a child, through the simplicity of the text and basic structure. The author uses the repetition ‘stench’, a seemingly prepubescent word. This repetition of the word stench adds...

Bibliography: Suskind, Peter. Perfume. London: Penguin Books, 1985. Print.
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