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...
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].
"Perfume" is accentuated by it's 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.