Perfume

Perfume

Perfume Part 1, Chapter 14 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Baldini remembers that these are the goatskins for the count. He considers sending Grenouille back with the goatskins, but decides to accept them.
Baldini’s casual decision here begins a turning point in Grenouille’s life.
Themes
Upward Mobility and Social Movement Theme Icon
Scent, Sight, and the Grotesque Theme Icon
Baldini leads Grenouille through the shop. This is the first time Grenouille had been in a perfumery, and while he knows every scent in the place, he still had yearned to see it up close. He feels the seriousness of the rooms and is gripped with the thought that he belongs in this place. The narrator asserts that there is nothing to justify Grenouille's belonging here as a tanner's helper, but Grenouille the tick had scented blood and was letting itself drop.
By again comparing Grenouille to a tick, Süskind asserts that Grenouille isn't exactly making these decisions consciously—instead these are things that he instinctively knows in an almost bestial sense. We see too that Grenouille is beginning to behave like those who have “cared” for him thus far, as he sees Baldini and his shop as solely a means to advancement.
Themes
Growing Up and Becoming Human Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
Creative Genius vs. Convention and Assimilation Theme Icon
Upward Mobility and Social Movement Theme Icon
Scent, Sight, and the Grotesque Theme Icon
Baldini instructs Grenouille to lay the skins on a worktable. Baldini inspects the goatskins and finally tells Grenouille that he'll come pay for the skins in a few days, but Grenouille doesn't leave. Baldini asks if he needs something else, and Grenouille tells him that he'd like to work for him. Baldini takes Grenouille's hunched posture for timidity, when it's actually the exact opposite. Baldini explains he has no need for a tanner's apprentice, and Grenouille asks Baldini if he wants to make the skins smell good with Amor and Psyche by Pélissier. This terrifies Baldini. Grenouille continues that Baldini reeks of the perfume and it's not very good, and then rattles off a list of elements that are in the perfume.
Here, Grenouille's lack of social skills (hunched posture, not leaving when it's implied he should) works in his favor, as it comes across as simply being strange and timid. Essentially, his lack of knowledge of how to truly deal with people provides a disguise for his more sinister plans. Also, it’s confirmed that Grenouille is easily able to dissect the perfume, but his talent hilariously scares Baldini, as Grenouille’s genius again seems supernatural to other characters.
Themes
Power and Control Theme Icon
Creative Genius vs. Convention and Assimilation Theme Icon
Upward Mobility and Social Movement Theme Icon
Scent, Sight, and the Grotesque Theme Icon
Baldini is perplexed and thinks that Grenouille is either possessed, an imposter, or very gifted. Three of the ingredients listed by Grenouille were indeed the ones that Baldini hadn't been able to come up with earlier. He's curious and wishes to test Grenouille to see if he can provide the recipe, thinking that even if he won't use the result, he's still interested in knowing the recipe, as well as curious about Grenouille.
Baldini masks and justifies his curiosity with professionalism. Notice that while the reader knows Grenouille is already a killer, he's still a simple curiosity for other characters in the novel at this point. Like his lack of social skills, this will protect Grenouille and help him advance.
Themes
Growing Up and Becoming Human Theme Icon
Creative Genius vs. Convention and Assimilation Theme Icon
Upward Mobility and Social Movement Theme Icon
Scent, Sight, and the Grotesque Theme Icon
Get the entire Perfume LitChart as a printable PDF.
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Baldini states that Grenouille has a fine nose, and when Grenouille replies that he has the best nose and knows thousands of odors, Baldini yells that that's impossible, and says that anyone with a passable nose could've parsed out the ingredients of the perfume. Baldini then lists the qualities of a master perfumer, and asks Grenouille if he could provide the exact formula for Amor and Psyche.
Grenouille thinks highly of himself (and we know that he's correct in his self-assessment), but his lack of social skills means that he doesn't realize that saying so violates all social convention.
Themes
Growing Up and Becoming Human Theme Icon
Creative Genius vs. Convention and Assimilation Theme Icon
Upward Mobility and Social Movement Theme Icon
Scent, Sight, and the Grotesque Theme Icon
Grenouille finally replies that he doesn't know what a formula is. Baldini explains sternly, and Grenouille states that he doesn't need a formula. He just asks to mix the perfume. Baldini is again perplexed as Grenouille points out where the bottles of the ingredients are in the room, and Baldini accuses him of being a spy. Baldini figures that it won't make any difference since he's going to sell the shop anyway, and Grenouille may be a genius.
Here Grenouille's rudimentary grasp of language works against him. While a formula is a concrete thing to those who know how to use one, for someone like Grenouille a formula is entirely unnecessary and not worth his time to learn about.
Themes
Creative Genius vs. Convention and Assimilation Theme Icon
Upward Mobility and Social Movement Theme Icon
Scent, Sight, and the Grotesque Theme Icon
Baldini agrees to let Grenouille mix the perfume, saying that his certain failure will teach him humility. He begins to set up the tools of the trade on the table as Grenouille grabs bottles and jars, having heard Baldini's "yes" and nothing else, and knowing that he's won.
Grenouille takes in conversation similarly to how he acquired language in the first place, only paying attention to parts that interest him or he finds important. Baldini, however, is still considering appearances and conventions as he sets out the tools.
Themes
Growing Up and Becoming Human Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
Creative Genius vs. Convention and Assimilation Theme Icon
Upward Mobility and Social Movement Theme Icon
Scent, Sight, and the Grotesque Theme Icon
Grenouille asks how much to make, horrifying and infuriating Baldini. Baldini finally asks for half a beaker, and Grenouille states that he'll mix it his own way, which he knows is the "wrong" way. Baldini thinks there is only one right way, but what happens next is truly a miracle.
Grenouille finally exhibits a sense that he has some awareness of "right" and "wrong" ways to do something, which sets him up to develop these skills later in the novel. Grenouille’s genius is again presented as something fantastical and “miraculous.”
Themes
Power and Control Theme Icon
Creative Genius vs. Convention and Assimilation Theme Icon
Scent, Sight, and the Grotesque Theme Icon