Perfume Part 1, Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis from LitCharts | The creators of SparkNotes
Perfume

Perfume

Perfume Part 1, Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Madame Gaillard, while not yet 30, has already lived her entire life. As a girl her father hit her across the face with a poker, damaging for good her sense of smell and her ability to feel any emotion. As such, she has a great sense of order and justice, shows no preference for any of her charges, and cares for them without emotion. She saves her money so that in her old age, she can afford to die at home rather than in the Hôtel-Dieu like her husband did.
Madame Gaillard's inability to smell and sense emotion means that she doesn't recognize that Grenouille doesn't smell, or that his emotional development is limited. As a somewhat grotesque character herself, her only goal in life is to die a private death and save herself the “embarrassment” of dying in public.
Themes
Growing Up and Becoming Human Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
Upward Mobility and Social Movement Theme Icon
Scent, Sight, and the Grotesque Theme Icon
Madame Gaillard's establishment is a blessing for Grenouille. He thrives despite poor nourishment, a variety of childhood illnesses, and some physical mishaps. The narrator likens him to a contented tick, living quietly on blood drank years ago. He requires no attention or love.
Grenouille will be compared to a tick throughout the novel. It's a fitting comparison, as both Grenouille and the tick are vampires of sorts, robbing their victims of blood or scent. It also alludes to his emotional deficiencies and the general portrayal of him as a kind of sub-human creature.
Themes
Growing Up and Becoming Human Theme Icon
Scent, Sight, and the Grotesque Theme Icon
The narrator states that Grenouille's first cry as an infant stood as a decision against love, but for life, since demanding both would have resulted in an early death. Grenouille was an abomination from birth and made this decision out of spite and malice. The narrator observes that Grenouille is like the aforementioned tick in a tree, hibernating and waiting for the scent of blood so it can then drop and bite an animal.
Süskind sets up the idea that “love” and “life” are in contrast to each other, and in choosing “life” purely out of spite Grenouille chooses to reject human connection in favor of his own experience of his senses and, later, his “art.” He's again portrayed as a parasite, as it's indicated that he's hibernating and waiting for his first victim to appear.
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's lack of scent or soul doesn't bother Madame Gaillard, as she can neither smell nor experience emotion, but the other children immediately realize that he's creepy and strange. Some of them try to kill him with little success, and finally give up. They don't hate him; they simply fear him and find him disturbing.
Thus far in his life Grenouille has already been rejected by adults; here he's rejected by his own peers. He's designated a loner while still an infant, and simply repels people for no apparent reason.
Themes
Growing Up and Becoming Human Theme Icon
Power and Control Theme Icon
Scent, Sight, and the Grotesque Theme Icon
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