How does the structure in Perfume: The Story of a Murderer contribute to its main concerns?

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The structure of Perfume: The Story of a Murderer is written from a third person view following the life of Grenouille from birth to adulthood. The author, Suskind, writes to explore the sense of smell and the complexities that scents may carry, such as their emotional meanings and their relationships....

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The structure of Perfume: The Story of a Murderer is written from a third person view following the life of Grenouille from birth to adulthood. The author, Suskind, writes to explore the sense of smell and the complexities that scents may carry, such as their emotional meanings and their relationships. In fact, eighteenth century Paris, in its description, is broken down into component smells according to location (i.e. the fetid stench at the cross section of a cemetery and fish stall). Humans are also written with their own scents with exceptions given to many of the women Grenouille has murdered.

The main character, Jean Baptiste Grenouille, oddly carries no smell of his own. This makes him an outcast whose survival can only be attributed to an instinct for spite and malice. He is intent on becoming the greatest perfumer of all time. His ambition to become this leaves a trail of murder behind him as he robs or kills certain beings for their 'aromatic soul.' He is in a sense an olfactory vampire. Just as Grenouille creates phantom objects in the air with his concoctions of perfumes, Suskind creates similar images in his language.

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The story is not only separated into segments based upon the origins and maturing of the central character, but also has a unique narrative structure that portrays the story in an unusual way. The story is relayed in a classic third person past tense point of view common to many novels; but there is clearly a narrator whose finely-detailed descriptions offer an oddly dichotomous view of Grenouille. At times this view is a sympathetic one, as when it describes Grenouille's mother's rejection of him because he has no body odor, and his brutal treatment in the orphanage. At other times, the view is detached, almost clinically so, detailing Grenouille's actions as devoid of compassion and self-centered to the point of narcissistic.

But perhaps most interesting is the narrator's able grasp of the art and science of perfumery, detailing many intricate and obscure factual elements to ground the novel's rather fantastical story in a realistic setting and worldview with historical and literary context. This deep knowledge of the world of perfumery gives the narrator an unusual level of expertise and authority, allowing them to understand even the brilliant (yet disturbed) mind of Grenouille.

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This story is a unique coming of age story.  It demonstrates how a man grows and matures as a result of his nature and the environment he is raised in.  To demonstrate this theme, the novel is structured in four parts, like four stages of development:  youth, adolescence, adulthood, and death.  The first sections shows Grenouille as a young child, learning to interact with his immediate world, his surroundings.  The second section demonstrates his interaction with society.  The third section shows him finding a path in life.  The last section shows him trying to flee from the end of life.

This story focuses on evil, particularly evil in human beings.  The examination of "evil" is unemotional, and meant to come across as a serious analysis, like a doctor would analyze a disease.  As such, this story is written in a scientific way.  The structure is similar to that of historical writings, with an omniscient narrator and very little dialogue.  The scenes in Grenouille's life are "recorded" as opposed to experienced.  If the story were, for example, narrated by Grenouille, the reader would be likely to sympathesize with him.  This would diminish the theme. 

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