Jean-Baptiste Grenouille


Outer characterization

The main character of the novel Perfume: The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind is Jean-Baptiste Grenouille. He is born on July 17, 1738, in the marketplace for foodstuffs in Paris. He dies there in 1767. His mother is a fishmonger, in her mid-twenties, and has already had five children before Grenouille, all of whom did not survive.

After Grenouille is discovered at the market, and his mother is convicted of infanticide, the boy is baptized in the cloister of Saint-Merri and placed in the care of wet nurses. As a child, however, Grenouille requires so much milk that the wet nurse Bussie eventually gives him to Father Terrier, who takes him to Madame Gaillard.

Already the nurse Bussie describes Grenouille as "possessed by the devil" (Part 1, 5%) and also mentions his lack of smell: "He doesn't smell at all" (Part 1, 5%). Father Terrier feels aversion towards Grenouille. He is also struck by the contrast between Grenouille’s pronounced nasal movement, and his poor eyes, which are "of an uncertain color, between oyster gray and creamy opal white, covered with a kind of slimy film and apparently not very well adapted for sight" (Part 1, 12%).

During his childhood with Madame Gaillard, Grenouille survives numerous illnesses, a fall from a height of six meters, and being scalded with hot water. He is left from these accidents with scars and a crippled foot (Part 1, 17%). Grenouille can only walk from the age of three and speaks his first word at the age of four (Part 1, 19%).

In 1747, Grenouille begins working for the tanner Grimal. He performs heavy physical labor and endures inhumane living conditions here. It is the tanner Grimal who sends Grenouille with a delivery to Baldini, the perfumer. The tanner's business is only a stopover in Grenouille's life.

Baldini buys Grenouille from the tanner and hires him as an apprentice. Grenouille learns the most important techniques of the perfumer's craft there and in the end also receives his journeyman's certificate there. After seven years in the Plomb du Cantal cave, he finds work with Madame Arnulfi and learns the technique that will eventually help him capture the scent of all objects.

Inner characterization

Right at the beginning of the novel, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille is described as one of the "most gifted and abominable personages" (Part 1, 0%). His extraordinary sense of smell and ...

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