In what ways can Perfume be read as a critique of the eighteenth century's conception of itself as the Age of Reason? PERFUME, THE STORY OF A MURDERER :When the wet nurse refuses to keep Grenouille because he has no smell and therefore must be a "child of the devil" [p. 11], Father Terrier takes him in. But he is exasperated. He has tried to combat "the superstitious notions of the simple folk: witches and fortune-telling cards, the wearing of amulets, the evil eye, exorcisms, hocus-pocus at full moon, and all the other acts they performed" [p. 14].

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Grenouille himself is a figure who offers a critique of these aspects of the Age of Reason described in the previous answer. Despite his humble origins, his extremely traumatic upbringing, and his being ostracized socially from the very beginning of his life, Grenouille is highly intelligent. One could also argue...

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Grenouille himself is a figure who offers a critique of these aspects of the Age of Reason described in the previous answer. Despite his humble origins, his extremely traumatic upbringing, and his being ostracized socially from the very beginning of his life, Grenouille is highly intelligent. One could also argue he has artistic sensibilities that are well above average, given his sensitivity to fragrances and his innate talent for perfumery, which was at the time considered an art only fit for educated elite citizens. Yet, despite his social awkwardness and lack of understanding of even the most basic elements of perfumery, he manages to display his genius and artistry to a prominent local perfumer and gain an apprenticeship to practice his passion.

Because he is also a sociopath who does not understand the difference between right and wrong, his superior intellect ends up being utilized to help him commit murder undetected and in ways that are elaborate, carefully planned, and, on some level, artistic. That Grenouille uses his intelligence and skills to do something so heinous, evil, and socially unacceptable is a commentary on the notion that "reason" is somehow the most noble aspiration and ability of humankind. For Grenouille, his actions are "reasonable" because they help him move toward his goal and achieve his dream of possessing the scent of a beautiful young virgin, which he mistakenly thinks will make people love him. What his twisted mind is unable to understand is that he is moved by the scent of the young woman because it is natural human instinct to feel this way, to associate her pleasing scent with her beauty and desirability. Instead of behaving in a way that reflects love and social harmony, he wreaks chaos and commits acts of horrible violence. And yet, in the end, his invention causes people to "love" him as he wished, even though it ends in his destruction.

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"Perfume" is accentuated by its magical realism, which is embodied in the character of Jean Baptiste and his supernatural ability to sense and appreciate the aroma which is the elixir of life.

The 18th century was indeed the age of reason, and one of the ruling books of the time was Tomas Paine's "Common Sense". Slowly, the general mentality began to shift from God to the Self, and the advent of the Industrial Revolution was clearly on site. The status quo was put to test in France with the decapitation of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI, and in England there were constant fears of war as the American Colonies were about to be lost by George III.

All this told, we see how the story still reverts to the ideas of the Dark Ages, and to folklore, magic, spells, old ideas, and ancient superstitions. With a society raging for "Common Sense", the behaviors shown in Perfume would seem rather anachronistic and almost strange. Yet, it may give us light into what really lies within the spirits of the people, and that is that the people still hold dear to their believes no matter how times change the world.

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