Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

by Patrick Suskind

Start Free Trial

Analyze a foil in Perfume: The Story of a Murderer and discuss how the relation between Baldini (minor character) and Grenouille (major character) illuminates the theme of power and control.

Baldini is a foil for Grenouille because he shows what an ordinary, practically-minded person would have done with Grenouille's ability. Their contrast points to the theme of power and control by contrasting appearance with reality. Though Baldini is the master and Grenouille his apprentice, it is really Grenouille who is in control and manipulating his master.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Baldini serves as a foil for Grenouille by illustrating what the average person might have done with Grenouille's extraordinary powers. When Grenouille first comes to deliver goatskins to Baldini's shop, he encounters an apparently prosperous perfumer with a very ostentatious establishment which is, in fact, in decline. Baldini has been reduced to copying his rival's perfume in the struggle to maintain his position. If he had Grenouille's olfactory genius, he would undoubtedly use it to create fashionable and expensive perfumes to sell to aristocrats and plutocrats, making himself the richest and most celebrated perfumer in Paris, perhaps in Europe. This is a very normal and understandable ambition, to be at the top of one's profession, and it contrasts sharply with Grenouille's obscure and sinister motives.

The encounter and subsequent relationship between Baldini and Grenouille illuminates the theme of power and control by contrasting appearance and reality. Baldini is a master perfumer, while Grenouille is a poor errand-boy who wants to work for him. All the power appears to be vested in Baldini. However, from the very first, Grenouille manipulates and dominates his ostensible master. He decides that he will become Baldini's apprentice and, as soon as he makes the decision, has not the least doubt that he will gain this position. He learns everything he needs to learn, then leaves while Baldini's house and business collapse into the river. Grenouille's abilities, his certitude, and his curious force of character mean that he is always in control, even as Baldini is using him to further his own conventional aspirations.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team