Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

by Patrick Suskind

Start Free Trial

How does Grenouille's scent obsession lead to his demise in Perfume: The Story of a Murderer?

Quick answer:

Grenouille's obsession with scent leads to his death in that he creates a perfume so perfect that there is nothing left for him to achieve and, therefore, from the perspective of a monomaniac, no further point in living.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

It is arguable that Grenouille's obsession with scent merely determines the manner of his demise, which appears to be a form of suicide. At the end of Perfume, he pours over himself an entire bottle of the scent that, in a far smaller dose, had allowed him to get away with murder, turning his execution into an orgy. Grenouille has never been fond of his fellow human beings, and it appears that finding out how completely he can manipulate them with his scents has turned him into a complete misanthrope. At this stage in the novel, he can be Emperor of the World or worshipped as a living god if he wishes, but such easy power over creatures he despises has no appeal for him.

Instead, Grenouille chooses death at the hands of a gang of criminals in a cemetery. It is not clear that Grenouille knows exactly how he will die when he pours the perfume over himself, but it is evident that he wants to die, and it is characteristic that he should bring about his death by scent. His macabre personality might well crave a peculiarly horrifying form of death: taking poison or jumping from a rooftop would be altogether too tame for him.

Assuming that there is nothing accidental about Grenouille's death, he is led to it by his success in the quest for perfection. He is a monomaniac with no interests outside the world of aromas, and his creation of a scent that inspires instant adoration leaves him with nothing to achieve. This means that he dies not only as a grotesque and repellent murderer, but as a fulfilled genius unparalleled in the history of humankind.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial