The gothic novel Perfume set in the 18th century, chronicles the depressing life of the protagonist, Grenouille, who is a cripple with a gift of olfactory sense. Grenouille's obsession with scent steams from his deeply rooted desire to discover the ultimate scent and in process discover his identity. He is also ostracised and unloved because he has no smell. This partly accounts for his cruel and cold-blooded behaviour throughout the novel. On the other hand, Mishima's novel, chronicles the life of a thirteen year old boy, Noboru who suffers from an Oedipus complex. Noboru's obsessive behaviour springs from his mother's affair with his role model Ryuji which he sees as betrayal. Due to Ryuji's appearance in Fusako's life, Noboru starts to feel as if his position in his mother's life is diminishing, which made him go through a series of violence in order to achieve his aims, which is to get rid of Ryuji.
In perfume, Grenouille's childhood is originally destroyed from the day he was born and disowned by his mother on that day. The author displays the way Grenouille is not wanted from birth by his mother when it states that she" squatted down under the gutting table...and cut the new born thing's umbilical cord with her gutting knife".The author succeeds in making the reader's first impression about Grenouille as something unwanted and disgusting by referring to Grenouille as a 'thing'. On the other hand, in Mishima's novel, Noboru, who is the main protagonist, is loved by his mother, Fusako, at the beginning of the novel when it states what "would she do if there is a fire? Let him out first thing-she had promised herself that". Here, it is clear that Fusako loves Noboru and she cares about him more than herself, due to the fact "she promised herself" to let Noboru out before herself.
The difference in both the behaviour and mentality of both protagonists is definitely due to the sort of childhood and upbringing they had. In Perfume, during Grenouille's stay with Grimal, who is tanner, Grenouille's terrible obsession is unfolded as he was struck by an amazing scent of a young girl with plums. He ''meant, of course, he had never smelled anything so beautiful..he had only one concern- not to lose the trace of her scent". This quote shows the development of Grenouille's obsession, which is 'scent', as he refers to the scent of the girl as 'beautiful', rather than the girl. Grenouille's obsession is shown as he did not care about not killing the girl; instead, he cared more about not losing the girl's scent. In addition, due to the structure of this quote, the author succeeds in attaching an image of Grenouille as an abnormal murderer, which changes the personality of the character from feeling pity for him at the beginning to a heartless person.
On the other hand, in Mishima's novel, Noboru's obsession is first displayed in a devious way, which begins when he starts spying his mother through the mysterious hole in his cupboard. He" had a terrible time when she went near the wall mirror, for it hung in a corner of the room he couldn't see". Noboru's inquisitiveness turned to obsession is outlined in this quote as he feels uncomfortable when he cannot see his mother's naked body. The fact that Noboru becomes extremely worried makes him insecure and paranoid, which makes the reader's impression about Noboru's character rather peculiar. Moreover, both Grenouille and Noboru are not fully satisfied with themselves, as at this point, they know that they have an obsession but instead, they end up becoming more insecure about themselves, in order to fully reach their goal. Therefore, obsession makes the characters devious and heartless.
In Mishima's novel, as Noboru starts to dislike his mother's lover, Ryuji, Noboru becomes more cautious and more jealous because he felt Ryuji was taking his position in his mother's life. This further makes Noboru more paranoid about what his mother is doing. That there "was something about Noboru this morning, almost as if he knew" and he "waited in the gradually mounting cold. And, weary of waiting, he abandoned himself to an absurd fantasy".Here, Noboru's paranoia is shown as he waits for his mother's return in the cold. On the other hand, in Perfume, as part of his journey to achieve the 'perfect scent', Grenouille decides to start working for Baldini, who is a perfumer. During his stay, Grenouille learnt the process of distillation which he did not know that for substances "like these essential oils, the distillation process is, of course, wholly pointlesa" , this makes Grenouille even more agitated. Furthermore, it also makes Grenouille more insecure as he feels that he cannot achieve his goal. However, this did not make Grenouille change his aim of finding the perfect scent; instead, it leads him to stay away from people as much as possible, Grenouille "began to withdraw from them...Until now he had thought that it was the world in general he had wanted to squirm away from. But it was not the world but the people in it". This quote shows how the character starts to isolate himself and he also realises that he does not only hate the world around him but the people in his society which increases Grenouille's unruly behaviour and aggressive behaviour towards people.
After the discoveries made by the protagonists about their hatred towards the people around them, they decide to take a more aggressive way in order to achieve their goal. In Perfume, Grenouille started by taking the first step, of knowing how to preserve scents by killing a puppy "...Death descended on the puppy...Grenouille stood guard over his victim, for about twelve hours, until he noticed that the first wisps of carrion scent was gone" We can see that Grenouille is heartless as he guards his victim for hours without any sense of remorse. The author structures the sentence in a way that makes the reader's feelings about Grenouille to change, from sympathy for Grenouille to almost hatred.
On the other hand, Noboru starts to physically show his anger, which leads to Noboru's first outbreak of murder which was shown when Noboru "squeezed the neck of the kitten by the neck and stood up"and when Noboru "squeezed a mountain of toothpaste onto his toothbrush and belaboured his gums till they bled". In these quotes, we can see how Noboru is expressing his anger by killing and also harming himself in order to vent his anger. In addition, we can see that both Patrick Suskind and Yukio Mishima used animals in order to demonstrate their protagonists' aim and to also foreshadow the way they both achieve their aims.
At the end of the two novels, both protagonists almost achieve what they want. In Perfume, Grenouille finally achieves what he has always wanted, which is the scent of Laure. "The sound of the blow was dull, grinding thud. He hated it solely because it was a sound...She no longer existed for him as a body, but only as a disembodied scent". The author shows Grenouille's cruelty as he used diction such as "grinding thud" to describe the blow. On the other hand, Noboru also decides to put an end his misery by finally poisoning Ryuji with a cup of tea "Absently, Ryuji took it...Still immersed in his dream, he drank down the tepid tea. It tasted bitter". These two quotes basically show that both Grenouille and Noboru have finally achieved what they want. They also give the reader a broad view of what the protagonists have done in order to achieve this aim.
In conclusion, the protagonists 'obsessions are fuelled by their extreme insecurities and paranoia towards the people in their society. Their violent actions later isolate them from the society whose approval they seek and ultimately lead to their destruction. It can therefore be stated that the two authors have successfully revealed to the readers the way these characters' obsessions controlled and later destroyed their lives.