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Book Analysis

What Does Grenouille Being Devoured Symbolize At The End Of The Novel? - Shreya Sachdev

Perfume, written by Patrick Suskind, is a 1985 novel that explores many different themes and motifs such as power, love, humanity, and many more. The leading character in the novel is a man named Grenouille who is presented as having an incredible sense of smell, yet having no scent himself. The ending of the novel is a complicated one, one that can be open to many different interpretations and opinions. However, Patrick Suskind makes use of symbolism and physical imagery to convey the meaning of the end of the novel to the audience which aids in the audience in understanding what the literal meaning is.

There are many different thoughts and emotions that have come from the audience over the past few years over what the ending of the novel could possibly mean. The first one of these interpretations is that Grenouille has finally learnt to love. Grenouille’s way of expressing his love to these people is by letting everybody devour him. This is due to the fact that Grenouille understands the fact that everybody has become obsessed with him and that the only way they will be able to get on with their life is if he dies. Thus, by letting society devour him, Grenouille is letting the people that are in love with him to get over their obsession and move on with their life. This can be seen as a symbol of Grenouille’s love and care for society. The second interpretation of the ending of the novel is that Grenouille has absolutely nothing to live for anymore as he has created his dream scent, and thus everybody helps him die. The third interpretation of the ending of the novel is that Patrick Suskind wants to convey to the audience just how easily society can be manipulated and tricked, especially when it comes to heroic figures in their lives. The fact that Grenouille was guilty of murdering several women during the time of hisThe fourth and last commonly believed interpretation of the novel is that Grenouille lets everybody devour him due to the fact that he still has a craving for love and believes that he will be able to reach the maximum level of love when everybody devours him.

The fourth interpretation of the ending of the novel is most commonly believed for several reasons. The first reason is due to the events at the start of the novel. The audience understands that Grenouille was abandoned by his mother on the streets of Paris. The fact that Grenouille was abandoned by his mother is a possible symbol of the fact that Grenouille grew up with nobody to love him and for nobody to give him any affection. Thus, it is logical to believe that Grenouille has a craving and obsession for love, which he finds in his passion for pleasant smells.

The second reason that this interpretation is commonly believed is due to the fact that Grenouille preserves the scent that he captures from the killing of the girls. The fact that Grenouille goes through a long process learning how to capture the scent of these girls is evidence that Grenouille’s passion for scent is not short, but is rather a continuation and something that Grenouille aims to keep for as long as he can. Therefore, it can be said that Grenouille letting everybody devour him is part of the process to gain as much love as possible and to reach the maximum level of affection he can achieve.

The third reason to support this interpretation is due to the killing of the girls itself. The killing of the girls in the novel is presented as extremely gruesome and at times disturbing to read about. The gory language that is used throughout the novel when it comes to the murders of these girls show the extent to how badly Grenouille has a craving for love and affection. After killing one girl after the other, the audience sees no feeling of remorse or sympathy for the crimes he has committed which thus eliminates the other interpretations. The violent and explicit details of the way that Grenouille attacks his victims even leading to his arrest are a presentation of Grenouille’s mindset and don’t convey to the audience that he is planning on changing in any way or form.

This is not to say that Patrick Suskind does not intent to portray other interpretations at the ending of the novel such as how easily society can be manipulated and how easily society can be tricked when heroic characters that society admires are involved in some sort of crime. However, Grenouille being devoured says a lot about the character of Grenouille himself. The ending portrays as Grenouille as somebody who is utterly obsessed with the feeling of being loved. Despite killing numerous girls, Grenouille is still in the need of love which portrays Grenouille as a desperate, and almost obsessed human being - just like society is in love with Grenouille’s scent, Grenouille is in love with not the scent itself, but rather the feeling of love which the scent symbolizes.

The reason as to why Patrick Suskind portrays the ending in this way, with Grenouille being devoured to reach the maximum level of love is controversial. Perhaps, Patrick Suskind does this to show how important love is in society and the consequences that society will have to face is love is forgotten, abandoned or taken for granted. In some ways, this novel is an existentialist novel. Patrick Suskind is attempting to show the audience that love is a way to find meaning in life. Just as the people of France fall in love with Grenouille, they reach the maximum level of pleasure they can attain. When they devour Grenouille, they believe that they are now nourished and now fulfilled. This can be seen as a direct relation to communion when people are told to drink the blood of Jesus. Likewise, when Grenouille lets everybody devour him, he finds the maximum level of love he can achieve and this is how he finds meaning in life. Grenouille was born without love in his life, and now he has achieved the highest level of love known to humankind. Patrick Suskind wants to spread the importance of love in this novel to convey to readers the negative consequences that abandonment and rejection can have.

To conclude, I believe that the meaning at the end of the novel is Grenouille’s success and how by letting everybody devour him, he has achieved the maximum level of love. Despite being abandoned by his mother in the streets as a child, he becomes successful at the end of the novel when he is able to make all the citizens of France fall in love with him. The ending of the novel results in Grenouille being able to achieve the maximum level of love, as well as the society of France loving to their maximum. Thus, the ending of the novel is a clear meditation on love which is a clear theme that Patrick Suskind is trying to convey throughout his book. The importance of love in society and the devastating consequences that a world without love can have.


Shreya Sachdev