• Year Published: 1985.
  • Pages: 263.

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer Summary of Chapters

CHAPTERS 1-7

The author dedicates these chapters to introducing Grenouille, his birth, his mother’s execution, and his subsequent loneliness. He is given over to a cloister where he gets the name Jean-Baptiste.

The oddities of the child continue growing with him as he develops. Eventually, he starts apprenticing as a tanner. Here, he contracts and survives anthrax – making him invaluable to his new master.

His walks in the city, which enables him to come alive – all the while following scents and smells with his nose. With time, he realizes that he can produce entirely unique fragrances given the opportunity.

CHAPTERS 8-15

Watching the fireworks along the Seine, Grenouille catches the finest, most delicate scent of all. He follows it and finds it coming from a teen girl pitting plums. He kills her and leaves the body after being sated by her great smell.

The event makes him believe he is destined to grow into the greatest perfumer in the world – both because of his accurate memory and delicate scent.

He goes to Giuseppe Baldini – a master perfumer that Grenouille yearns to ape. Baldini, who has been on the decline and breached several professional bounds of conduct, gladly welcomes him.

At the end of it all, Grenouille begs for work from Baldini who promises to think about it.

CHAPTERS 16-26

Baldini eventually buys Grenouille’s apprenticeship from the tanner and Grenouille starts working for his new master. Due to this move, the house of perfumes experiences a rise in sales on account of Grenouille’s original creations.

Although he first starts the trade using his nose instead of records and measurements, Grenouille is forced to go the traditional perfumer way – and write out every new formula before trying them.

Baldini also teaches his new apprentice the essences used in perfumes – knowledge that is as yet foreign to Grenouille. During this time, he seeks to learn essences, extracts, and tinctures from plants – if only to know how to distil odors and scents into stable essences. And so he is introduced to the world of distillation and all that pertains to it.

However, he contracts syphilitic smallpox – which throws Baldini into a panic. The master tries to get new formulas from his dying apprentice, but Grenouille keeps silence. Instead, he asks about other options for extracting scents from items and is pointed towards Grasse, in the south of France.

With the new knowledge, Grenouille heartens and revives. Eventually, he incredibly recovers. He leaves Paris after promising Baldini never to make perfumes in the city. The master, however, dies at the end of this scene.

CHAPTERS 27-33

Part 2 of the novel sees Grenouille on the road to Orleans. Disliking human scents, he travels at night. The joy of nature and the purity of the air give his nose the relief it lacked in Paris. During this time, spanning seven years, he dedicates his life to olfactory meditation.

He also discovers that he does not have a scent to call his own. This knowledge forces him back into human society at Pierrefort where the Marquis de la Taillade-Espinasse takes him in. With this adoption, Grenouille learns the ways of gentlemen.

CHAPTERS 34-38

Part 3 of the novel begins with Grenouille arriving in Grasse where he hopes to learn about every other method of preserving and distilling scents. He discovers the scent of another girl – and realizes that her charms come from her unusual scent and not her striking beauty.

Grenouille settles down in a small perfume workshop. He learns the processes of maceration and lavage, as well as how to make essence absolute, the most concentrated scent.

His industrious, learning capabilities and ingenuity all lead to his quick rise in the short. With time, he learns cold enfleurage and starts fantasizing about acquiring the little girl’s scent.

He eventually starts killing girls – mostly in their teens.

CHAPTERS 43-51

Grenouille is captured but escapes from custody. These chapters weave into a long crescendo – filled with surprises, suspense, and plot twists. Grenouille continues hunting the ultimate of his entire quarry – Laure.

He kills Grenouille and is contented. However, he is arrested, evidence of his previous murders found, and condemned.

He wears the scent of the girls he killed to his execution. The scent makes people stop believing that he is capable of murder. It leads to a long-lasting and vast public orgy.

Grenouille leaves for Paris with plans to make people think of him as the new Messiah – with the power to command humankind to love him. He enters the city, goes to the slums, and covers himself in his master perfume. The crowd of ruffians nearby tears him to pieces and eats every part.

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