Discussion Questions

1. Baldini seems to be a greedy man that is only concerned with business, and rightfully so because of the threat of closing shop. He does not even like the perfume Amor and Psyche, but is obsessed with it because it is monetarily successful. Do you think that Grenuoille will make a better master perfumer because he doesn’t have another motive? Do you think that is true in jobs now? Or is money the best motivator?

2. I looked up Amor and Psyche and it turns out that is is a reference to the Greek myth of Cupid and Psyche (Pretty much she is so beautiful that she makes Venus [goddess of beauty] jealous and Cupid falls for her, but she encounters a ton of obstacles and loneliness due to her curiosity. Do you think that the ‘virgin smell’ that engulfs Grenuoille is how he feels love? He doesn’t interpret other emotions, or words, like the rest of us; could this be his definition for love?

3. Grenuoille is most interested in extracting and distilling essences from living plants. Do you think that this part where Baldini shows him will play a role in Grenuoille using this technique with women?

-Carolyn

Passage: Week 3

“It was as if he were just playing, splashing and swishing like a child busy cooking up so ghastly brew of water, grass, and mud, which he then asserts to be soup. Yes, like a child, thought Baldini; all at once he looks like a child, despite his ungainly hand, despite his scarred, pockmarked faces and his bulbous old-man’s nose. I took him to be older than he is; but now he seems much younger to me; he looks as if he were three or four; looks just like one of those unapproachable, incomprehensible, willful little prehuman creatures, who in their ostensible innocence think only of themselves, who want to subordinate the whole world to their despotic will, and would do it, too, if one let them pursue their megalomaniacal ways and did not apply the strictest pedagogical principles to guide them to a disciplined, self-controlled, fully human existence.”

I though that this passage was very interesting because I believe that Baldini is the first person to actually see Grenuoille for what he truly is, a child. Yes, Grenuoille has committed murder, and done horrific things, but he is still only a young boy. And Baldini sees this rather than seeing a devilish, horrifying monster that most people see. What do you think about Baldini’s observance of Grenuoille??

-Riley

Week 3: Connection

“…for at first Grenouille still composed his scents in the totally chaotic and unprofessional manner familiar to Baldini, mixing his ingredients impromptu and in apparent wild confusion.”

This sentence stuck out to me because I recently hung out with my sister in San Francisco for a weekend end got to observe her lifestyle. She lives an extremely healthy life, from food and exercise to perfumes and deodorants. I asked her about them because they were in unmarked bottles and didn’t seem store bought and she makes her own perfumes and deodorants!I immediately thought of Grenouille and wanted to make my own. She let me dig into her essential oils and scents without giving me and instruction and I failed. I thought any combination would be lovely, but it is actually hard to make a nice scent. I’m impressed that both Grenouille and my sister can make a scent that actually smells nice.

Like Baldini she mixed ingredients until she found a mixture that she loves and now she makes it by smelling it until it smells how she wants it to smell like Grenouille does. After looking up ways to make your own perfumes and deodorants (with recipes) using all natural fresh ingredients, it seems doable and leaves out the harmful aluminum that is in most antiperspirant deodorants.

Nique

Passage Person

             Grenouille had killed the young girl, about 13 years old, in order to enjoy her scent as he pleased. After she was dead and he described how he engulfed himself with her scent, keeping his eyes closed. Did you guys feel as though he was violating her, although not through touch but through scent? This whole section severely creeped me out (though we did choose a serial killer novel!) In the last paragraph of page 43 Grenouille had returned home from tracking and capturing the “perfect scent”. This passage was extremely interesting because he showed absolutely zero guilt for what he had just done, in fact, just the opposite. Grenouille felt pride; he felt purpose. I feel like Grenouille has developed a sort of Messiah complex since he murdered the 13 year old girl because following the incident he harps on the fact that he finally found: “true happiness”, “pure bliss”, and he, “finally knew who he really was”, “genius”.  Since committing this horrid act he feels like murder is his calling, not something he should be ashamed of.

-Carolyn

As I read more and more about Grenouille, I am more interested in the relationship between his apparent psychological problems and smell. I looked for an article that may have explained this and interestingly enough, I found an article (http://psychcentral.com/news/2012/09/21/psychopathy-linked-to-impaired-sense-of-smell-frontal-lobe/44949.html) written in 2012 that suggests that psychopathic tendencies are connected with lack of olfactory senses that come from the frontal lobe of the brain. Unfortunately, that did not relate well to our story because Grenouille is obviously impacted heavily from his sense of smell.

So I looked in to smell and psychological conditions deeper and found from several articles that support that smell and deep emotion are very closely associated. In fact, The Smell Report (http://www.sirc.org/publik/smell_emotion.html), suggests “Our olfactory receptors are directly connected to the limbic system, the most ancient and primitive part of the brain, which is thought to be the seat of emotion.” Grenouille’s actions, as horrible and revolting as they are, seem to be driven by passion. I believe that his heightened sense of smell may be a direct cause of the senseless and passionate drive that allows him to commit murder.

 

-Riley

Discussion Leader

1. Grenouille found this girl’s scent from extremely far away. He was immediately enveloped in the scent and had to find it. After he finally found the girl he still wasn’t satisfied. Why do you think he felt the need to kill her right away without even seeing her face? Do you think he knew that killing her would make her scent disappear forever?

2. Grenouille is obviously obsessed with scent and he had been taking in scents, when he acquired the scent of this girl he became alive. The book said he had previously “merely existed”. He learned that he was a genius and had a talent. Why did it take him this long to realize how extraordinary his smell is? Why did it take her scent to make him “find the compass for his future”?

3. We know Grenouille’s deal with scent, but how will Baldini be connected with Grenouille? At chapter 9 the story drops Grenouille and still has not mentioned him at the end of chapter 12. What is the importance of Baldini, the perfumer?

Connections

 

In eighteenth century Paris, when Jean-Baptiste Grenouille (our main character) was born, they mention the Cimetiere de Innocents which was abandoned and upon which the market was erected. I found this to be an odd sentiment and looked up the translated “Holy Innocent’s Cemetery” which was indeed the largest and oldest cemetery in Paris; it was mainly used for mass graves for unclaimed bodies. So, I wondered what happened to such deceased now, but during my research stumbled upon a database for unclaimed deceased. (http://www.unclaimedpersons.com/Coroner_Public_List.asp)

It made me cry.

 

In the book death was simply death: Grenouille’s mother’s four previously stillborn children were just, “bloody meat”, and in her first miracle of life is casually, “decapitated at the place de Greve”. But now I thought, cloaked in naivety, that we see one another as people in life and death, in struggle and flourish. Death seemed to have a different weight now, but as I scrolled through the names on the database I realized it is still only significant to those directly effected

 

“…Gary Rennicks age 51

 

Billy Edwards age 82

 

Santiago age 18

 

Linda Sandefur age 36…”

These are people that haven’t been claimed in death, and though I am not a traditionally religious person, I couldn’t help but feel a connection to lists and lists of people, though I know nothing of them. The sudden condemnations made through just the first six chapters of Perfume have already made me aware of how I interact with those around me.

 

Death is abundant in this novel and the 286 pages of unclaimed people in California made me abruptly face the abundance of unrecognized death now.

-Carolyn