Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

by Patrick Suskind

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In the book Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (written by Patrick Süskind), what was the message to the reader? What was Perfume's aim?

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Patrick Süskind emphasizes the complex relationship between the exceptional individual and the society from which they become alienated. While the novel is set in the eighteenth century, its message resonated with twentieth-century existentialist concerns about the moral nature of the world and the responsibility of the individual to follow a moral code—or to chart their own course.

The symbol of smell—as it both emanates from and is detected by a person—becomes a central metaphor for the place of the human in society. Jean-Baptiste Grenouille's nose and lack of smell set him apart from everyone else. Just to find this bearable, he inverts normal social relations, deriving pleasure and satisfaction not from love but from killing. He tries to capture and preserve what he does not have. The irony is that he cannot change something ephemeral into something permanent, whether it be a scent or the euphoria of a moment's passion.

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Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is the main character. He is an odd anti-hero who does not have an "odor" himself, but he *can* smell and is obsessed with odors and through a series of experimentation, is first able to create scents that dominate other people, then actually acquires the ability to "steal" the odors of others.

The "message" of Siskind's novel is perhaps not to admire people so much that you are blinded to their ulterior purposes. At first, the people respect and are awed by Grenouille's abilities, but he is proven to be a monster. The author seems to be arguing for the necessity of social and moral restraints.

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