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The prompt is Readers discover new truths when language is used in unexpected ways
Readers discover new truths when language is used in unexpected ways. In the novel, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind, we are encouraged to see these truths through the use of language features. In the novel, Suskind confronts the tensions that arise when we use our appearance to gain power over those around us, that to be human means to be flawed; and that the human psyche possesses the capacity to transform when we are confronted with the challenge of finding the light in something that is instinctively perceived as repugnant. Through exploring these ideas through the character of Grenouille, readers are encouraged to discover new truths as they unearth revelations about their nature.
Readers are encouraged to discern how their appearance helps them exercise control and the repercussions of this by exposing the tensions that occur when we use our presentation to influence people’s perceptions of us. Suskind illustrates this idea with the character of Grenouille, who exploits the olfactory manifestation of his looks, through his perfume, to affect how he is perceived by others. Grenouille can determine how individuals connect with him by controlling how they interact with his fragrance, giving him a degree of power over those around him. Early in the novel, when Grenouille encounters his first victim, a striking moment unfolds as “they kissed him, and with each kiss they bestowed upon him, he was filled with an ever-increasing hatred for them.” The use of antithesis encapsulates the contrasting emotions of love and hatred conveyed through the act of kissing and the mounting hatred that Grenouille harbours toward those who show him affection. Within a single character, the coexistence of these contradictory feelings stands as a testament to the difficulty of the human soul, resonating as a profound representation of the antithesis between love and hate, which encourages readers to discover that their appearance helps them exercise control. Suskind emphasizes this by using the interaction between control, power, and the complicated combination of sentiments within Grenouille’s heart as a reminder of the layers that constitute the human experience and how it can be influenced through the olfactory representation of appearance. Later in the novel when Grenouille is subsequently able to produce what he considers to be the ultimate smell, one that would give him a degree of power over everyone around him, he “did not trust his nose and had to call on his eyes for assistance if he was to believe what he smelled.” Through the use of juxtaposition in this sentence, the author contrasts the sense of smell with the sense of sight. The contrast emphasizes the character’s lack of confidence in his sense of smell, implying that he needs visual confirmation to believe or validate what he perceives through his sense of smell. This resonates with the broader idea that individuals often rely on various senses and perspectives to validate their understanding of the world. It highlights the need for reassurance and validation through appearance, even when dealing with sensory experiences.
To be human means to be flawed. Grenouille is portrayed as exceptional and gifted, possessing an extraordinary olfactory sense that sets him apart from others. His talent for creating mesmerising perfumes that evoke the sublime seems to elevate him above the ordinary. However, despite his extraordinary abilities, Grenouille is deeply flawed and “knew for certain that unless he possessed the ultimate scent, his life would have no meaning.” Through the use of hyperbole, Süskind intensifies the significance of the scent to Grenouille’s existence, conveying the depth of his obsession and the extremity of his desire. This hyperbolic statement emphasizes the all-consuming nature of Grenouille’s pursuit and highlights the extent to which the scent has become an integral part of his identity and purpose in life, demonstrating how deeply flawed he is as he lacks essential human traits such as empathy, compassion, and the ability to form emotional connections with his victims. Instead, Grenouille views people as mere objects and instruments to fulfil his desires, as demonstrated by his obsession with capturing and preserving scents, even if it means resorting to gruesome acts, including murder. This idea is seen during one of his murders when " he was overwhelmed with a blind desire for himself, not for all the sumptuousness, the opulence, the splendour of the earth. He wanted only himself, his paltriness, his disgustingness, he wanted only to be." Through the use of parallelism, we see that despite his extraordinary talents and his pursuit of the sublime through perfumery, he is plagued by self-loathing and a sense of his grotesqueness. It exemplifies the theme that being human entails embracing both our greatness and our flaws, acknowledging that within each person, there exists a blend of the sublime and the grotesque, making us intricate and imperfect beings. We can learn from this that embracing our flaws is essential to finding true authenticity and understanding in ourselves and others because the pursuit of perfection is not inherently wrong, but it can lead to isolation and detachment from the world around us if it comes at the expense of neglecting our flaws and denying our essential human qualities. Through the character of Grenouille, Suskind shows us that acknowledging imperfections is vital for authenticity and understanding, as the relentless pursuit of perfection can lead to isolation and detachment from humanity.
By unconventionally employing language, we are encouraged to observe how the human mind can transform when faced with the task of discovering positivity in something that is initially perceived as repugnant. Suskind explores this idea with the relationship between Richis and Laure. Through detailing Richi’s obsession with his daughter Laure, describing her as "my precious Laure,” we are presented with the repugnant truth of his desires. This possessive language portrays the intensity of his love for her and highlights his obsession’s potentially unsettling nature. This deep affection for Laure makes her an essential and irreplaceable part of his life, and thus he fears losing her to the menacing Grenouille. As the story progresses, the character of Grenouille becomes increasingly threatening to Laure, and this poses a significant challenge for Richis. He is confronted with the reality of the danger Grenouille poses to his beloved daughter, forcing him to grapple with his emotions and possibly transform his perspective. Suskind prompts readers to reconsider Grenouille’s pursuit of the ultimate scent as a manifestation of his longing for beauty and the sublime. Through his extraordinary olfactory talents, he can create a perfume that evokes positive emotions and transcendent feelings in those who smell it. This idea is reinforced when Grenouille is discussing his plans and ambitions with Baldini, the perfumer advises him to go to Grasse, a city famous for its perfume production. However, Grenouille responds proclaiming that he will “stay here and make the most glorious perfume in the world. It will be my special perfume. And then I’ll die.” Through this unexpected use of foreshadowing, Grenouille, who has used others for their scents, is devoured, leaving behind only his clothes and the intoxicating scent that once defined him. This encourages readers to become aware of Grenouille’s fixation on creating the ultimate perfume, which intensifies, leading him to make choices that seal his tragic fate. The quote becomes a haunting reminder of Grenouille’s obsession and foreshadows the final events of the novel, where his life comes to a dramatic, symbolic, and transformative end through the power of his “ultimate” perfume.
In conclusion, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Suskind uses language unexpectedly to invite readers to discover new truths. Through the unexpected use of language by Suskind, readers are exposed to the tensions that arise when appearances are used for control, the flaws that define the human condition, and the capacity for transformation when confronting the repugnant. In the exploration of Grenouille’s character, we are defied with the uncomfortable truth that human nature comprises both the grotesque and sublime. Perfume’s unexpected language features force us to reevaluate our perceptions, motivations, and desires, recognizing both virtuous acts and malevolent impulses within ourselves. It compels us to explore the intricacies of humanity, embracing beauty in flaws, finding the sublime in the grotesque, and seeking transformation and redemption in the darkest circumstances. This challenges us to grow personally, build stronger relationships, and appreciate the complexities of the human experience. It fosters kindness towards ourselves and others, nurturing a more compassionate and empathetic society.