Examples Of Rationalism In Perfume

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Historically, there has been an ongoing conflict between whether humans should live with exemplification of actions and thoughts through their humanistic instincts, or through reason and rationalism. Patrick Süskind, through his novel Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, showcases a travesty of the Age of Enlightenment – a time of intellectual movement and cultural ambience where trust in human reason and rationally was accentuated, overriding man’s trust in their most humanistic instincts – in order to belabor his disbelief against the latter. Through the characterization and actions of minor and major characters – such as Father Terrier, who is shown as one of the most humane characters in the novel; Mme. Gaillard, a woman described as almost…show more content…
Through this, the author characterizes Father Terrier as someone who is empathetic and full of love towards children. These are considered to natural human emotions, the characteristics that separate man from animal. Thus, Süskind employs Father Terrier as someone who posses true human nature. Consequently, Father Terrier is also one of the only characters in the novel who allows his human instincts to get the best of him. He claims that he is an educated and reasonable man, but also has his limitations in his beliefs of rationalism. “He would never go so far as some – who questioned […] the very truth of Holy Scripture – which could not be explained by reason alone.” (Süskind, 14). He is displayed as someone of the old age, who is trying to constitute new age ideas within him, however staying limited by his instinctive human reliance on a superior power for guidance, one which he cannot upset by doubting. Through this characterization, the reader is able to see his very “human” personality. Accordingly, there are many instances in which his natural instincts override his ability to be reasonable and rational. “He [Father Terrier]…show more content…
Gaillard is portrayed lacking humanity and emotion, which was the prevalent belief of the time period. She is the only character who is able to keep Grenouille for an extended period of time due to the fact that she lacks her olfactory senses. Madame Gaillard had “lost for good all sense of smell and every of human warmth and human coldness – indeed every human passion” (Süskind, 19), thus exemplifying the notion that human senses induce human instincts and emotions, both of which she lacked. Her whole life she worked with one aspiration and one thought in mind: to die a private death, unlike the manner in which her husband had died. Therefore, she was completely rational, doing only what was needed to achieve her goal, “She had it figured down right to the penny” (Süskind, 20). Thus she believes that she will have a private death, and that her whole life is reasonably planned out. However, Süskind employs cosmic irony – a literary feature in which the author deliberately manipulates events in order to lead a character in having false hopes – through having her die in the identical manner of her husband. This happens as a result Süskind allowing her to live much longer than she wished to. In the novel, Grenouille is consistently compared to a tick and parasite, thus characterizing him as someone who uses his human host to grow stronger, weakening them and causing them to die almost immediately after he is gone. However, in the case of Mme. Gaillard, she dies many years
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