Patrick Süskind’s Usage Of Character Stories In Perfume Do Persuade The Reader

1319 words - 5 pages

Patrick Süskind’s novel, Perfume, presents two major themes: the corruptive nature of power and the inherent flaws of humanity. These two themes are explored throughout the novel in the lives of the characters. Süskind shows the effects of power on Giuseppe Baldini, the marquis de La Taillade-Espinasse, and Jean-Baptiste Grenouille. The author explores the flawed nature of humanity by pointing out the greed and deception experienced by Monsieur Grimal, Giuseppe Baldini, the marquis Taillade-Espinasse, and the citizens of Grasse. Süskind convinces the reader, at least while he or she is reading Perfume, that these two major themes are present and active both in the novel and in the real world.
While Grenouille serves as the epitome of the corruptive results of excessive power, Baldini the perfumer and the marquis from Montpellier also display how the attainment of power can so often be destructive. When Baldini is first introduced, his perfume shop is failing, and “the Persian chimes at the door of [his] shop [ring] and the silver herons [spew] less and less frequently” (47). Because of his slowing business, Baldini plans to sell his home and shop, move away to Messina in order to live in a way that is “more honorable and pleasing to God than to perish in splendor in Paris,” and make a pilgrimage to Notre-Dame (65, 66). Grenouille enters the perfumer’s life, however, and completely transforms Baldini’s business and his desires to grow old living a life of piety and modesty. When Grenouille, equipped with his journeyman’s papers, leaves for Grasse, Baldini begins to feel guilty for saying “if only it turns out all right” as his “continual anxious prayer” during the time Grenouille was with him (109). Baldini plans to atone for his questionable practices by finally going on his pilgrimage to Notre-Dame, but he is sidetracked by his perfume business once again and ultimately reaches his demise because of it. Baldini’s transformation from a man seeking to retire quietly and live piously into a man who works only for wealth and renown is reflective of the corruptive nature of power. The marquis also reflects how damaging power can be. When he first becomes part of Grenouille’s story, the marquis is living “for science alone” (139). Once he has used Grenouille as “living proof for the validity of his theory of earth’s fluidum letale,” however, the marquis plans to take Grenouille on tour in order to gain fame for his theory (141). When Grenouille sneaks away from Montpellier, the marquis decides to test his theory on himself through an expedition to the Pic du Canigou where he, and his fluidum letale theory, is ultimately lost forever.
Despite exploring this theme in many of the other characters in Perfume, Süskind’s ultimate example of the corruptive nature of power is Jean-Baptiste Grenouille. As he is born with a supernatural sense of smell, Grenouille has power over other humans. When he retreats into the Plomb du Cantal and proclaims himself...

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