Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

by Patrick Suskind

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The central figure Jean-Baptiste Grenouille initially evokes respect and interest, which then turn to fascination and horror. He is not a three-dimensional literary creation but a grotesque antihero, who moves through society in an obsessive pursuit of aromas. Lacking an odor himself, he devises various scents which enable him to dominate other people and finally learns to steal the aromatic soul from a living creature, the scent of pure beauty from women who inspire love. After Grenouille is captured for the murder of dozens of young women, Suskind eliminates the bond of empathy, and he intends for readers to no longer want Grenouille to escape and survive. He steps from the bonds of his captors by overwhelming them with aroma provoking an orgy of love. At this instant he is Prometheus creating the divine spark, a self-made God, who is, however, filled with disgust and revulsion for mankind. Bearing no identity of his own, he seeks death at his birthplace among people crazed by the aroma who devour him.

The other characters exist as stick figures for Grenouille's purposes; they offer him a role or provide a context in which he learns a skill or otherwise demonstrates his abilities; there is no motivational interaction among them or with Grenouille. These figures include the orphanage mistress Madame Gaillard, Grimal the tanner, the perfumer Guiseppe Baldini, and the amateur Enlightenment philosopher marquis de La Taillade-Espinasse.

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