Perfume

Perfume

Perfume Part 1, Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Several weeks later, Jeanne Bussie stands at the gates of the cloister of Saint-Merri with a market basket. Father Terrier opens the door, and Bussie explains that the basket contains Grenouille. When Father Terrier inspects the infant and proclaims that he looks good, Bussie states that he's gorged himself on her milk and she will no longer feed him.
Remember that Jeanne Bussie is Grenouille's third midwife, and all of them have described him as “greedy”—even as a baby he’s portrayed as vaguely monstrous and having an insatiable appetite. In this case there's no sense of motherly love for Grenouille; he's merely an economic loss, as a wet nurse can't feed more than one baby if the greedy Grenouille is one of them.
Themes
Growing Up and Becoming Human Theme Icon
Upward Mobility and Social Movement Theme Icon
As Father Terrier stands up he notices that Jeanne Bussie smells of milk and cheesy wool. He tries to offer Bussie more money and the two argue. Bussie finally says that Grenouille is possessed by the devil, and she knows this is true because he doesn't smell at all. Father Terrier insists that infants aren't yet human and therefore can't be possessed. He lifts the basket and smells Grenouille, stating that the only thing he smells is a soiled diaper. Bussie holds firm, and Terrier, annoyed, explains that only sick children smell (like onions, horse manure, or old apples, depending on the affliction). Bussie asserts that children are supposed to smell like children, and this one doesn't smell.
The reader has already been told that scent is Grenouille's realm, but here we're introduced to the idea that it's not his alone—indeed, in the vaguely fantastical world of the novel, most people place a lot of importance on scent. Father Terrier can recite off the top of his head what sick children smell like, and Jeanne Bussie's dislike of Grenouille is partly because of his lack of smell. Grenouille’s lack of smell will be a defining trait of his, and becomes a primary motivator for his actions later in the novel.
Themes
Growing Up and Becoming Human Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
Scent, Sight, and the Grotesque Theme Icon
Father Terrier, growing angry at Jeanne Bussie, turns the argument into a theological one. Bussie, peeved at this turn that means she can't possibly win, states simply that Grenouille doesn't smell right and she doesn't want him. Father Terrier demands to know what babies are supposed to smell like. Bussie struggles for a moment and then details what babies smell like (fresh butter, caramel). Father Terrier asks Jeanne Bussie when she's ever had caramel, and then gives up. He grabs the basket with Grenouille in it and goes to his office.
Here, Jeanne Bussie's low social and economic standing is made abundantly clear to the reader. Caramel would've been a luxury and because of her low class, she's only ever smelled it. Father Terrier, as a religious figure, is somewhat outside of the social ladder, but still is able to use Jeanne Bussie's status to put her down and express his displeasure.
Themes
Power and Control Theme Icon
Upward Mobility and Social Movement Theme Icon
Scent, Sight, and the Grotesque Theme Icon