Hang struggles to find dignity as she acknowledges that this environment is her “ home” .People stank of sweat and unwashed clothes; from their mouths came the stench of rotting teeth, from their bellies that of onions, and from their bodies, if they were no longer very young, came the stench of rancid cheese and sour milk and tumorous disease. The rivers stank, the marketplaces stank, the churches stank, it stank beneath the bridges and in the palaces. However, while both the protagonists arise from a similar background of poverty and face the turmoil and rejection of society, Hang’ s story portrays the struggle towards uplifting values and towards the discovery of self, freed of the burden of the cruelty of poverty and oppression.
In “ Perfume” however, the protagonist faces death on numerous occasions but does not emerge as an elevated human being, on the contrary, society’ s rejection makes him a misfit and a sociopath, leading him down into the depths of sensual depravity. His lack of odor and an acute sense of smell is perceived by those around him as something evil. Grenouille portrays the descent of the human spirit into evil deeds of cruel, inhuman murder – shaped by the acute lack in his childhood and the cruel rejection by his own mother and society itself, into an inhuman monster who delights in the stench of the kill.
The lack of family identity is another theme that is common to both books. Suskind’ s book shows a protagonist whose mother is guilty of postpartum neglect and abandons her child in a fish gutter, strewn into the rubbish. The abandoned infant is passed from one nurse to another until a clergyman finally takes pity on him.
Yet, even in the orphanage, he faces rejection. His unusual appearance seems evil to his fellow inmates who hate him and seek to murder him. Grenouille falls prey to one life-threatening disease after another – emerging from them all – alone, friendless and bereft of the family as he moves around in the Parisian poverty stricken underworld. This was a society where the seeds of rebellion were fermenting among the working class and Grenouille’ s experiences symbolize the feelings of alienation, frustration, and helplessness that was experienced by them.
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