Perfume

Perfume

Perfume Part 1, Chapter 17 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
With Grenouille working for Baldini, Baldini's perfumery begins its climb to European fame. The first evening Grenouille is tasked with creating a huge batch of his first perfume, of which 80 flacons are sold the next day. Chénier sells bottles to some of the most powerful individuals in Paris.
It's made very apparent that Grenouille is indeed a genius. His perfumes are so powerful that he can draw customers into a shop that's been going downhill for years in one day. The power of scent is again presented as something both ubiquitous and almost magical.
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
While Chénier mans the shop, Baldini and Grenouille remain in the laboratory to manufacture a new scent per week, or whatever's needed to take on Pélissier and the other perfumers. Chénier doesn't bother asking questions and stays on, taking a cut of the massive profits. Every product Baldini creates is a success, and money is no object for the customers.
The reader is reminded that scent controls everything, specifically money. People have no problem paying an inordinate sum of money for a new perfume, and following the logic of the novel, it's the beauty and power of the perfume that makes people helpless to resist it.
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
Grenouille, the "gnome," as Chénier thinks of him, is responsible for this rise of fame. Baldini can barely keep up with Grenouille's creativity. Finally, he demands that Grenouille start using scales and measuring ingredients for his concoctions, which allows Baldini to follow along and write down the recipes. Baldini eventually forbids Grenouille from creating new perfumes unless Baldini is there to write down the formulas. He compiles the dozens of formulas into two small books, one of which he keeps in his safe and the other on his person at all times.
Baldini begins to temper Grenouille's genius and direct it so it's easier to manipulate. Grenouille is still allowed and encouraged to be a genius and create perfumes, but only if he does so "correctly" according to Baldini. The two books are a way for Baldini to further control Grenouille and insure himself against any ill fate that might befall Grenouille.
Themes
Growing Up and Becoming Human Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
Creative Genius vs. Convention and Assimilation Theme Icon
Scent, Sight, and the Grotesque Theme Icon
Grenouille is helped by Baldini's insistence on measuring, as it teaches Grenouille the language of perfume. Soon Grenouille is able to write the formulas himself, and eventually can simply write out a formula for a new scent with no experimentation at all. Grenouille's growing knowledge and seeming normalcy keeps Baldini from suspecting anything strange about him. Grenouille makes mistakes on purpose to further the façade.
As soon as a kind of language becomes useful and necessary for him, Grenouille seems to have no trouble learning it and using it. We also see how smart Grenouille is, as he understands that this is all a ruse to fool Baldini so that Grenouille can learn what he needs to from him. Both men use each other as means of advancing their own ends.
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
Get the entire Perfume LitChart as a printable PDF.
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Grenouille knows that while he doesn't need instruction on creating a good perfume, he does need social standing in the form of journeyman status. He also needs knowledge of the craft of producing scents.
Essentially, Grenouille is aware that to accomplish his personal creative goals, he has to work within the existing system of society.
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