The Perfume And Consumerist Society Of The Eighties

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The perfume and consumerist society of the eighties

The eighties was an era infested with fear due to the possibility of a war with nuclear weapons. This fear was fed by cinematographic works, as was "the day later" (Fox, 2013). Contrary to what would be believed, this society did not find comfort in its religious beliefs, but preferred to let itself sink into consumerism, spending its savings on luxuries, since it made no sense to continue keeping money for such an uncertain future. Just in the middle of this decade the first novel by the German author Patrick Süskind, called "The Perfume" is published;Despite being set in the 18th century, we find several characteristics of the time in which it was written.

To identify and demonstrate this aspect, the protagonist will be used, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, this is a clear example of an antihero, therefore, he exercises and promotes antivalores. It should be clarified that Western society until today retains and practices values of Christianity, so, when we refer to antivalores in the present text we allude only to those who go against the laws of Christ. With these premises, Grenouille consumerism and materialism will be analyzed, this last term defining it as “a tendency to give primary importance to material interests” (Royal Spanish Academy, 2014), concepts that in addition to being a fairly representative element of theeighty, oppose Christianity, in the same way that his society did it. In addition to the aforementioned, there will be a brief comparison of the protagonist with Christ, to better identify this role of antihero and antithesis of the latter.

First you have to look at the birth of Grenouille, this occurred in a recently converted food market, clear representation of consumerism and a space full of people and uproar. On the other hand, we have Jesus Christ, who as the Scriptures are born in a manger, a very opposite atmosphere, because it is considered a place of rest and contrary to wealth. These spaces, although it seems that they had no importance they mark the way and the ideals of both characters, as will be seen below. During his stay at the Grenouille desert he discovers his life goal, which in the first instance is to create a perfume that hides his lack of smell, and once he wishes to produce another, as exquisite that generates that humanity idolizes him as to agod. The creation of this will be possible after the collection of the best aroma ever captured by Grenouille’s nose, which belongs to Laure Richie. For this, he begins to work in a perfumery, in order to learn new methods in the materialization of odors;In addition to experiencing with flowers he begins to do it with animals and finally with human beings, so as not to make any mistake when the time comes to collect that fragrance. As can be seen, Grenouille is proposed as a goal of life and the only reason for "happiness" an object, perfume;Likewise, he succeeded much of the society of the eighties, which came to convince himself that through objects he would find protection and happiness. Contrasting with the above we see that Jesus practiced and promulgated a life only with what was necessary, in addition to the search for happiness through spirituality and with this salvation (Lacroix, 2018). However, at the end of the work, despite Grenouille having achieved his goal, he is not happy with the result: “What he had always longed for, that others loved him, was unbearable at the time of his triumph, because he did notHe loved them, he hated them ”(Süskind, 2007, p. 290). Event that could be interpreted as a criticism of Süskind to his society, as through a life goal based only on material objects will never bring happiness, although they manage to obtain these things. Another situation in which the character’s materialism can be observed is in his deal with the rest of the people, a fact reflected in the following extract: “It is true that he did not love a person, not even the girl behind the wall. He loved the fragrance ”(Süskind, 2007, p. 231). In addition to being able to see him when a character leaves his life: when this happens the author tells us his deaths, implying that they are nothing more than instruments to achieve their objectives, and once they have finished their task, they becomeDisposable for Grenouille. This fact can mainly observe it in two characters, the first of them his mother who once gives him birth is sentenced to death. The second, Baldini, the same night as Grenouille’s departure, once the latter has extracted enough knowledge in perfumery and the security of a Certificate of Artisan Officer, Baldini’s house falls to the river dying him, his wife and hisfuture plans in perfumery.

Now it is possible to go until the end of the work, as mentioned above, Grenouille was not happy with the final result of the perfume, so, decides to commit suicide and his way of doing so is quite peculiar. On June 25, 1767 he returns to Paris, enters a cemetery last night, and there surrounded by "the most heterogeneous chusma" (Süskind, 2007, p. 306) was splashed several times with the perfume, which generated that it was getting closer and more, pounced on it, shattering it, and finally devouring it. He, numerous times throughout the work, refers to the aroma as the soul of things, however, he did not have a smell then concluding his also of soul, thoughts that are prophetic before their end: “… until the last fiber ofJean-Baptiste Grenouille had disappeared from the face of the earth ”(Süskind, 2007, p. 307), outcome that makes it see how another object, that when destroyed disappears forever. What is even more curious are the feelings that these people had to be engulfed: “They were extraordinarily proud. For the first time they had done something for love ”(Süskind, 2007, p. 308). This fact is quite similar to communion, because in it the parishioners consume bread and wine on behalf of the flesh and blood of Christ, which is an act of love of both Jesus to believers and of the latter to Jesus. However, Christ rises and the Eucharist is a way of receiving the promise of eternal life (Eucharist, 2018);event totally contrary to the previous one, which could also be interpreted as a criticism from the author to the eighties, where they tried to survive only through the material and no more than the abstract (ideals, religion, spirituality, etc.), showing that consumerism was going to leave them empty and forgettable, as did with the protagonist of the book.

To conclude, the materialism and consumerism of the eighties are reflected in the work "The perfume", specifically in its protagonist, Grenouille. We notice this fact since birth, having done it in a market;In how this perceives the rest of the characters, that is, as disposable elements. Also in his life goal, which was to achieve happiness through an object which is a perfume, and in the end when after achieving this element he decides to commit suicide disappearing forever, because he did not possess soul. In addition to the aforementioned, we can observe a criticism and call of attention from Süskind to your society. We appreciated this when, despite the fact that Grenouille achieved his goal he failed to be happy with this, showing people who were still clinging to consumerism, they would end up in the same situation as Grenouille;In addition to creating a mirror where they could appreciate that they were becoming an antithesis of the ideals that Christ once promulgated and in those who fortunately or misfortune are settled the bases of the West.


  • Süskind, p. (2007). THE PERFUME: History of a murderer. (P. Giraralt, trad.) Spain: Booklet. Retrieved June 2019
  • Eucharist. (April 12, 2018). Retrieved on June 18, 2019, from https: //
  • Fox (address). (2013). The 80’s [movie].
  • Lacroix. (November 6, 2018). The croix in Spanish. Retrieved on June 17, 2019, from happiness, a Christian approach?: https: //
  • Royal Spanish Academy. (2014). Materialism. Retrieved on August 2019, from the Spanish Language Dictionary (23.ª ed.): https: // is/?id = Obwtepe
  • Süskind, p. (2007). THE PERFUME: History of a murderer. (P. Giraralt, trad.) Spain: Booklet. Retrieved June 2019

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