Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

How is Patrick Süskind’s characterization of his protagonist significant in criticizing the society in the work ‘Perfume: The Story of a Murderer’? 12th Grade

In the novel Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, Patrick Süskind presents the audience with a central protagonist who is characterized as less than human. Grenouille’s potential malevolence is initially indicated by his invariably negative characteristics, as Grenouille’s actions as a child differentiate him from other humans within society. Eventually, Grenouille embraces his difference and embarks on a quest of self-discovery. His desire to be not just human, but more than human, through the creation of the ultimate scent becomes his pervading motive. Süskind’s characterization of Grenouille throughout his journey provokes questions about human identity and morality. Moreover, the protagonist encourages condemnation of a society that not only allows a malicious being to survive, but thrive.

Süskind foreshadows Grenouille’s malevolent nature by characterizing him as an unwelcome and distasteful baby. The accretion of negative adjectives, such as “ugly” [1] and “devilish” [2], to characterize Grenouille suggests that he is both physically and psychologically repulsive. Moreover, Süskind attributes volition to newborn Grenouille, suggesting that his “cry, emitted upon careful consideration… was the newborn’s decision against love...

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