Perfume Suskind

Interactive Oral: Debate Title: How was your understanding of cultural and contextual considerations of the work developed through the interactive oral? The setting of Perfume was crafted accordingly to author’s intention so that the main character would develop specific characterizations that will later on, lead him to make a decision whether to live or to die.
Suskind does this by placing Grenouille, who has a keen sense of smell in the 18th century France and distinctively allowed the plot to develop and establish in a setting of a malodorous and a scent-conscious society, where people were obsessed with pleasurable scent and uses it distinguish themselves within the hierarchy. In addition, Suskind hinted that smell is depicted more than merely the ingredients of a perfume but could also be a resemblance as the scent of a person’s soul, thus he made a correlation between the existences of with the existence of a person’s soul.
Hence in Perfume, scent has become the crucial factor in determining the human soul, the identity of oneself. Suskind also made a point where your own smell will give away your identity like the poor would have malodorous smell but ironically, he decided to leave the main character scentless. Grenouille was isolated simply because in the eyes of the society, he does not have the substance (body odour) that established his identity as a human being. Moreover, Grenouille also decided to detach himself away from the society because he does not have the need to establish relationships.

Through isolation and detachment, Suskind have effectively molded the main character’s psychological state of mind by limiting Grenouille’s knowledge and only allowed him to gain knowledge through smell and scent rather than language itself so that Grenouille only understood that things that smells, exist. During an epiphany and Grenouille’s encounter with the “fog”, he discovered and learnt the truth that he does not bear a smell or scent (based on his knowledge and understanding) and he belonged nowhere within the hierarchy, he felt his own personal identity is hindered almost as though he does not fully exist.
The cumulated awareness has aided him to realize upon the ultimate truth that he was indeed born scentless and can never own a scent. Upon discovering and understanding the final truth, he decided that his existing life has bared no significance to himself, hence leading to his choice to die. Perfume was written in such a way that it indirectly criticizes the human’s nature – the endless greed through Grenouille, where he chooses to pursue after something that is beyond his competence. (408) Grenouille reached an epiphany when he encountered the “fog” in his dreams.
The fog indirectly symbolizes as the ultimate truth which he has not explored and fully implicit. Grenouille only understood that he could not smell the fog hence the fog implies as a non-existent thing. This is how he had a realization that he is nonexistent. Again Suskind successfully correlate scent as identity. The moment he realized that the fog is a part of him, he had internal conflicts where he understood that he does not have an identity based on his understanding. He realized that he belonged nowhere in the hierarchy – hence only understood that his personal identity is hindered because he does not have smell of his own.
When Grenouille realized that he was scentless and found himself to be nowhere within the category, he felt his own personal identity is hindered almost as though he does not fully exist. Hence such understanding has led him to an internal conflict where he realized that he was born scentless and his created scent could never be his thus leading to his choice to die. The setting was crafted in such way that it affects the main character’s psychological state of mind and its characterizations towards the choices. (332)

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