In a literary work, a minor character often known as a foil possesses a trait that emphasizes by contrast the distinctive characteristics or qualities of the main character. Analyze a foil in Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind, and discuss how the comparison between a minor "foil" character and the protagonist illuminates a major theme in the book.

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Patrick Suskind chose to make the main character, Jean Baptiste Grenouille, unappealing or even loathsome. Although Grenouille has an incredible gift, the perfect nose, it is only one feature and its positive qualities cannot offset all the negativity embodied by the sociopathic murderer. Because he is so singularly dedicated to his pursuit of scent, he inspires a certain fascination—as the author manipulates the reader into wondering if, or for how long, Grenouille will get away with murder.

The young women serve as prey for the eerily talented predator; their goodness readily contrasts to his evil. Many of the other characters utterly lack good intentions, but those who oppose Grenouille vary in their success at getting their own way. The tables are turned at the end, however, when he creates such a powerful aroma that people are willing to kill for it, and Grenouille himself is sacrificed to their lust.

Baldini is one character who can be analyzed as a foil. He has mastered the business of fragrance, but he lacks the innate gifts to create the scents he sells. Initially he uses the guise of tutelage and then is more overt in his manipulation: Baldini exploits the apprentice by taking credit for the scents he develops. In a slightly different way, the Marquis de La Taillade-Espinasse can be paralleled to the perfume developer; both are explorers intent on discovery, and the marquis worships science for its own sake although he misunderstands it.

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