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Why Does Suskind Use An Untrustworthy Narrator?

1523 words - 7 pages

Suskind creates a narrator with a kaleidoscopic view. The narrator morphs from a gossiper, to reader’s friend, to historian, journalist, and ultimately an accomplice to the murders. With many different personas why does the reader still trust him? There are many sides to the storyteller of Perfume, and the reader may realize too late that there seems to be a fine line between friends to accomplice to murderer.

Generally, readers trust narrators. Narrators tell the reader what they know via their limited point of view. Therefore, the reader finds trust in what the narrator is saying because they do not know information that the narrator does not know. There is no competing point of view; instead, there is the shared intimacy of an experience. However, in some aspects of Perfume the reader does find that he or she knows something the narrator seems to not know. This creates a shiver of a doubt which Suskind intensifies as the novel progresses. By having a kaleidoscopic narrator, the reader is constantly asking questions about who the narrator is now, and if we can trust him. Suskind’s technique increases skepticism, independent thought and critical thinking for the reader.

The first persona the narrator displays after being a storyteller is that of a friend. He does this by using an inclusive pronoun: “Or rather, so it seems to us, he had totally dispensed with them just to go on living - from the very start,” (21). This is the first instance when the reader gets included in the story. Until this point, Suskind has been using the third person narrative and here it switches to the first person. By doing this, the reader feels as if he or she has been put into a pact with the narrator and is now a part of the story. This makes the reader feel involved, maybe even a little responsible. Throughout the rest of this chapter, the narrator continues to explore this persona by using casual phrases such as “which, by the way, he used for the first time quite late,” (24), “It was as if he were an autodidact,” (26), and “Since we are to leave Madame Gaillard behind us at this point in our story,” (29) to create a conversational tone. The narrator solidifies this newfound friendship, when he speaks directly to the reader, “it was like clothes you have worn so long you no longer smell them or feel them against your skin,” (33). This creates an informal relationship between the reader and the narrator which makes the reader feel comfortable and thus, a sense of trust develops early on. However, as seen in the novel, even the most trustworthy of friends can begin gossiping and spreading rumours, which creates distance in the relationship.

The narrator also portrays a gossiper. Until this point, the reader has only a friendly, storytelling narrator; however, his switch to gossiper is mainly seen when Baldini is introduced. The reader begins to learn detailed and personal information about Baldini: secrets, likes and dislikes, habits and how he has “indeed...

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