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The Importance of Hygiene in Perfume: Patrick Süskind’s novel Perfume

Decent Essays
In eighteenth-century France, the standard of hygiene was at an all-time low. In Patrick Süskind’s novel, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, hygiene plays a key role in developing character behavior. Süskind portrays a setting of poor hygiene in order to conceal character motives. This is evident through several main characters and several other minor characters such as Grenouille’s mother, Father Terrier, Grenouille, Grimal and Taillade-Espinasse. Understanding how Süskind manipulates hygiene to disguise character aims enables the reader to have a better knowledge of the human values and morals of the time period. Initially, the odor and conditions near Grenouille’s birthplace desensitize his mother’s cruelty. First, Süskind sets the…show more content…
Süskind affirms Father Terrier’s disgust of Grenouille with, “Terrier shuddered. He felt sick to his stomach. He pulled back his own nose as if he smelled something foul that he wanted nothing to do with”, and hints that Father Terrier’s repulsion of Grenouille stems from his own poor personal hygiene (17). Süskind masks the similarity of Father Terrier and Grenouille with Father Terrier’s exaggerated disgust of Grenouille. Father Terrier employs the excuse of Grenouille’s lack of typical poor hygiene to validate giving him away and thus Süskind uses hygiene, or a lack of, to conceal Father Terrier’s true goals. Furthermore, Süskind exaggerates Grenouille’s sensitivity to the smell of other characters and settings to distract from Grenouille’s desire for acceptance by society. The elaborate descriptions of malodorous fragrances that Grenouille experiences isolate him from the rest of society and create a void in which Grenouille needs to fill with normalcy and approval. Süskind first distinguishes Grenouille’s sense of smell from an average person’s, “He gathered tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of specific smells and kept them so clearly, so randomly at his disposal, that he could not only recall them when he smelled them again, but could also actually smell them simply upon recollection”, and then progresses to Grenouille’s pleasure of
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