Hello and Good Morning, today I am going to discuss and explore whether Grenouille, the protagonist of the book Perfume by Patrick Süskind is portrayed as God or Satan. [Most of us, know the book Perfume, but for those who don’t know] The book perfume is a set in 18th century France which follows the life and deeds of an emotionally neglected orphan – Jean-Baptiste Grenouille. Perfume by Süskind is predominantly about the odourless Grenouille who follows his destiny and kills young virginal women in order to extract their odour and creates the “perfect scent” – the essence, which would love and provide him identity, but ironically leads to his demise.
Before proceeding further, I’d like to know from the audience what they characteristics attributed to God?
[Person 1] – He is altruistic, and pure and good
[Person 2] – He is unselfish, cares for us and retains justice.
Now let us seek at what the audience thinks of Satan or Devil to be.
[Person 1] – He is evil, cunning and a cloaked
[Person 2] – he is sinful, instigates hate within others and resides underground.
You see a sharp contrast in the audience’s expectations and thus the society’s perception of both higher beings by the type of adjectives used to depict them. Whilst “God” is said to be everything pure and perfect, Satan is describes to be malicious, a sinner and a misanthrope.
The main objective of this analysis is to look at a series of events of Grenouille’s life and see how it creates a godlike image or a satanic one or a mix of both and in balance, which outweighs the other. God or Satan
“A God or a Godlike figure always has had a welcomed and appreciated entrance into the world, for example the birth of Jesus Christ was highlighted by the stars showing the place of his birth to the wise kings of the Middle east who welcomed him to the world with Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh as gifts. In Contrast to this Süskind’s character Grenouille’s birth was said to be on “”one of the most putrid spots in the whole kingdom.. and was on one of the hottest days of the year”. It was in a fish market filled with rotting dead fish, which was previously an cemetery. The place of the birth, the setting in itself instills within the readers a very strong repulsive visual image, which immediately alienates Grenouille from the reader. Next Jesus Christ’s mother was Virgin Mary, who gives connotations of pureness and righteousness whereas Grenouille’s mother is said to have killed four children before Grenouille and so is deemed to be impure as and also sinful. This creates a image in our minds, that it is the birth of Satan or a Anti-Christ and definitely not the birth of God.
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The early childhood of Grenouille is dependent as he lands from one wet nurse to another before finally landing into an orphanage. Even in this orphanage his peers try to suffocate him and so he then he ends up as a Slave at the tender age of 8, for Grimal’s tannery. In his childhood whilst working for Grimal, he is said to show have exhibited his sinister side by killing a ordinary young Girl, as he considered her scent to be “rich” and “balanced” and overall incredible. He had just killed a young girl, and yet he didn’t feel any remorse! He is said to be filled with happiness and pure bliss because of the deed he has done. A godlike figure doesn’t harm people for his own sake, yet a Satanic one does.
As we progress into the life of Grenouille, we notice that not only does Grenouille help Madame Gaillard – his orphan caretaker by finding her money, but also help his mentor Baldini realize his ambition of expanding his business horizons and played a major role in implementing it through creating exceptional perfumes. The idea of being a divine godlike figure is reinforced when Jean-Baptiste Grenouille leaves Paris and resides within the cave – Massif Central of the Auvergne. Grenouille is said to reside underground and go in a state of trance or sleep in which he is said to create his own world. Looking at the next excerpt:
“When he saw that it was good and that the whole earth was saturated with his divine Grenouille seeds, then Grenouille the Great let descend a shower of rectified spirit, soft and steady, and everywhere and overall the seed began to germinate and sprout, bringing forth shoots to gladden his heart.
Then Grenouille the Great commanded the rain to stop. And it was so. ” 146
The settings of this particular quote is a direct allusion to the various “gods” of the world as Grenouille is said to be a creator of this whole new world. Diction such as “Grenouille Seeds” tell us as a reader, that these seeds are a metaphor for creating raw scents and the rectified spirit or the rain is a metaphor for completing the perfume. Thus it is shown that Grenouille does not only create this world, but he plants it with his own experiences and memories. Grenouille is a creator and Gardener. Throughout the ages God is linked to a Farmer. He is said to have created the earth, as we know it and cultivated it. This is exactly what has been done by Grenouille as he is said to gently cultivate the blossoms of perfume and scents and nurture them. And in this the author is trying to equate Grenouille to God in a subtle way.
Grenouille’s ” His heart that was a purple castle. It lay in a rock-strewn desert, concealed by dunes, surrounded by a marshy oasis, and set behind stonewalls. “
The feeling of the passage is not one that you would attribute to the Gods. It is shown that Süskind portrays Grenouille to be a Goliath amongst men, as he describes Jean-Baptiste’s heart to be big and purple castle amongst the wide spread deserts and wastelands which could be interpreted as the crowd of common men.
ƒ The character himself makes this a comparison, as he himself creates this fanciful world where everything and everyone surrounding him is meaningless and barren deserts whereas he himself is a grandiose purple castle. This gives a suggestion of a superiority complex or vanity.
This vanity is reinforced when he compares himself to the human God. He says that “he would be the omnipotent god of smell and would rule the worl
Moreover his image of being Satanic is reinforced when Grenouille is said to finally reach Grasse and perfect his perfuming techniques and thus started on his quest to gain the greatest perfume in order to truly be God-like or as the previous point said a imposter of God. To make such a perfume, he takes what he considers to be the best scent in the world, the smell of young virginal girls, by killing them and extricating those scents. As terror is spread throughout the city in Grasse, we as readers get a very sinister feel and the atmosphere around the killings and the horror spread is very dark, brutal and barbaric. Throughout his time of creating the “perfect scent” Grenouille is said to have killed numerous animals for his experiments, experimented on a live street beggar and murdered around 25 innocent, beautiful nimble young girls. So many innocent deaths in order to create one single perfume is reprehensible and heinous. Which acco. Furthermore beauty, shallow superficial outer beauty such as those of the girls killed by Grenouille is associated with the devil. Thus proving that Grenouille is indeed a devil during the destruction of life and murder of the innocent.
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Grenouille is caught for his deeds and is sentenced to “being bound to a wooden cross, his face toward heaven, and while still alive be dealt twelve blows with an iron rod, breaking the joints of his arms, legs, hips, and shoulders, and then, still bound to the cross, be raised up to hang until death.” This scene of death is a allusion to Jesus Christ’s death as not only is it brutal but also on a wooden cross. Such a allusion tells us that Süskind is trying to portray him as Jesus and thus as God himself. Yet the punishment is so severe and inhumane one would consider that he truly deserves it for his deeds. Yet this harsh punishment couldn’t put him to death as his wondrous work of art, his perfume lets him escape and also shows him his true extent of the power of the scent he has created. It caused everyone to love him and love each other. So forceful the smell of the perfume, that Grenouille was able to escape this death and roam freely.
Grenouille’s true death came only when he commanded it to, when he believed that he had finished fulfilling his destiny and when that destiny of creating the perfect scent ironically failed him and though created love for him, it wasn’t real true love, but manifested and manipulated love. Before his death, he is said to go back to his birthplace in Paris and ends up giving himself to death as he drowns himself in his powerful perfume. The people of the fish market, the grave diggers, murderers, thieves and prostitutes are said to smell this overpowering smell, and
“They tore away his clothes, his hair, his skin from his body, they plucked him, they drove their claws and teeth into his flesh, they attacked him like hyenas.
A flash of knives soon followed, thrusting and slicing, and then the swish of axes and cleavers aimed at the joints, hacking and crushing the bones. In very short order, the angel was divided into thirty pieces, and every animal in the pack snatched a piece for itself, and then, driven by voluptuous lust, dropped back to devour it. A half hour later, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille had disappeared utterly from the earth.”
This is truly a disturbing image as the death of Grenouille the Great is explained in explicit detail in the way he is said to have died. Instead of dying in front of a city of good people, Grenouille was tortured alive and so eaten to death. The tone of this passage causes extreme ruthlessness and uneasiness as the act of cannibalism is inhuman and uncivilized creating a barbaric atmosphere. This was the last reference made to Grenouille as angelic which is saintly and godlike, yet this is a paradox as cannibals who are referred to as animals were devouring this angel, which is exemplified through the similes as hyenas. Moreover the graphic image also tells us that in the end Grenouille dies in the most torturous way possible.
After looking at both sides of Grenouille’s personality, which are Godlike or Satanic, I have come to a conclusion that Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is TRULY SATANIC. Though Grenouille is said to have God-like traits such as being a visionary, artist as well as a creator I believe he didn’t create the perfume for the sake of the people, but rather for himself as he craved identity. Would you consider a murderer of the innocent, the blood sucking “tick” like him to ever be good and pure? To do something Good and become anointed God? Obviously Not. And so I believe that his Satanic traits far outweigh and surpasses the good ones, them starting from his birth to his murderous actions and the fact that he is being tortured and killed and eaten by the filth of society And thus the filthy, Satanic Grenouille has returned to his true place – the bowels of the most despicable people in Paris.
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