The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Perfume subtitled The Story of a Murder) is the story of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, a man with a phenomenal sense of smell who lives in mid-eighteenth century France.

From the start, there is something sinister about Grenouille. The author calls him a tick and a monster. Misfortune strikes those around him, and there is something chilling about his presence, as though a draft comes into the room when he is around. Only Grenouille realizes that this is a result of his complete lack of scent. He is too willful and ambitious to let fear and censure keep him from his goals. In his mind, he knows that he is Grenouille the Great and that one day he will rule the world through his unique ability.

During his childhood and well into his teens, Grenouille spends his time mentally cataloging the thousands of different scents he comes across daily in Paris. He combines them to form new smells, much as a composer might do with musical sounds. Grenouille is able to “compose” all sorts of new aromas, leading to his success in the field of perfumes. His success is not public, however; not only does he prefer to remain anonymous, but in addition the perfumer for whom he works, Maître Baldini, takes all the credit for the hundreds of perfumes Grenouille creates.

All the significant people in Grenouille’s life are greedy and take advantage of him: Madame Gaillard, who ironically has no sense of smell; Grimal the tanner, who...

(The entire section is 558 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Perfume shares several traditions of the novel genre. The work at the outset presents itself as historical in nature, purporting to...

(The entire section is 447 words.)

Ideas for Group Discussions

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The richness and diversity of Siiskind's writing enables it to speak to the reader upon several levels coincidentally. Complexity lends...

(The entire section is 206 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The novel's sales figures strongly suggest that Perfume spoke, and continues to speak, to the sensibility of the general reader — to...

(The entire section is 130 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

"In eighteenth-century France there lived a man who was one of the most gifted and abominable personages in an era . . ." runs the first line...

(The entire section is 489 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The theme of the isolated individual or outsider runs throughout Siiskind's works; and Grenouille in his use of perfume demonstrates much of...

(The entire section is 39 words.)