The question is the following:How do you interpret the novel's ending, as Grenouille returns to the Cimetire des Innocents and allows himself to be murdered and eaten by the criminals who loiter...

The question is the following:

How do you interpret the novel's ending, as Grenouille returns to the Cimetire des Innocents and allows himself to be murdered and eaten by the criminals who loiter there? What ironies are suggested by the narrator's assertion that Grenouille's killers had just done something, for the first time, "out of love" [p. 255]?

Expert Answers
M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The killers did something "out of love" because Jean Baptiste's elixir is the essence of life and passion, and as a result this is the emotion that it caused in all those who came in contact with it.

Jean Baptiste's elixir is also the sole connection he has with the rest of the world; a world that has consistently pushed and rejected him of everything that would make his existence at all meaningful.

Not known to him, Jean Baptiste's search for this elixir, which was attained through taking the lives of others, will ultimately lead him to sacrifice his own life. He knew, however, that what he was doing was wrong, yet, it was also uncontrollable. He was attending only his basic instincts. These are the instincts that the elixir stimulated in the rest of the city the day of the big orgy: Love, passion, sex, savagery, desperation, and our primitive basic id.

Hence, Jean Baptiste was able to release the elixir of life at a price that he knew would cost: Life itself. The over-excited population, drunken with ecstasy, lost their inhibitions and became creatures of passion and instinct. Jean Baptiste knew this well, as he had become one as well. Hence, the ending is basically inevitable in his case.

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