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Perfume comments on 18th century pre revolutionary society in France. Suskind critiques the societal values of the time, the class system and the traits of enlightened thinkers

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Introduction

It is often said that literature is a voice for social commentary. How is this true of at least two stories you have read? Literature is often used to critique and comment on societal values - this is seen to be true in the novel Perfume by Patrick Suskind. Despite being written over 200 years after the time period in which it is set, Suskind critiques, challenges and satirizes 18th century, pre-revolutionary society in France throughout the text. There are four aspects that he addresses most thoroughly; how society influences the creation of monstrous individuals; the conceited and arrogant characteristics of individuals brought about by the Enlightenment; the socially defined dominance of sight over all other senses; and finally western society?s excessive nature and its resultant corruption. The most prominent social comment conveyed by Suskind is the role of society in forming monstrous individuals. The entire novel is narrated from an omniscient third person perspective, allowing the reader insight into any characters thoughts and all events that occur. This begins with the birth of Grenouille and the thoughts of his mother. ...read more.

Middle

This reinforces Suskind?s social comment regarding social determinism and societal influence as something that is not a seldom occurrence but repeatedly occurring and a serious concern to innocent lives. Suskind?s second social comment is the critique of enlightened thinkers and the characteristic traits brought about by the Enlightenment. He uses minor characters to demonstrate the aloof, conceited and arrogant traits brought about by this period of supposed revolution in thought. Suskind seeks to expose their hypocrisy in an attempt to criticize and falsify their thinking. Beginning with Father Terrier who is an ?educated? man yet Suskind writes of ?his filthiest thoughts? making him look incredulous as a priest and a father of God. Despite being ?God-fearing? he is also said to be ?given to reason?, making him once again appear to be very duplicitous and unsure. The Marquis la Taillade-Espinasse is another character presented in a very farcical way. Suskind critiques the fantastical and indulgent nature of scientific theories that are regarded sincerely despite making ludicrously implausible claims. Interestingly, Suskind revolves the book around smell - an intangible phenomenon - yet one that appears to have far more power (particularly at the end of the novel) ...read more.

Conclusion

Love.? Suskind?s final social comment is another critique, this time of the western societal values that are commonly associated with excess and corruption. He depicts a satirical view of 18th century France throughout the novel, set in an age where negative values of poverty and superstition uncomfortably coexisted with progression and emerging reason. This combined with the juxtaposition between social classes creates a jarring inequity throughout. The inadequacy of a social system to allow such antithesis to exist is what lead people to corruption in an attempt to better themselves and their lives. Suskind critiques the way in which society at the time left people with very few moral options to try improve their wellbeing and so offers smell as a means to unify all of humanity instead. Literature is often a voice for social commentary. Perfume comments on 18th century pre revolutionary society in France. Suskind critiques the societal values of the time, the class system and the traits of enlightened thinkers. He exposes the hypocrisy of the Enlightenment and challenges society?s pre-defined reliance on sight as our primary sense. Finally, and more importantly, Suskind highlights the impact of social determinism and society?s influential role in creating monstrous individuals. ...read more.

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