Obsessions and the Downfall it Brings Upon Life What is the first thing that comes to mind when someone speaks of obsession? For most people it is the obsession with media or someone with no life, or maybe both. Inside almost every single person’s mind is someone or something they are passionate about. Not only are they passionate about it, they are obsessed. So much that they are unconscious that their obsession be dangerous to themselves as well as others. In Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, Perfume by Patrick Suskind and Obsession by DaMoyre, they all express different stories of obsession, but they all mainly have the same concept.
Their obsession is what brings the downfall of themselves, as well as the surrounded environment they are in. For example, in Lolita the downfall is that Humbert does not know that he is being taken advantage of when Lolita asks for his money, same with Obsession, the young girl in the story is too naive to even care or know that she is being taken advantage for her body, not her feelings or personality. Finally in Perfume, it is evident that society would view Grenouille as someone with no life. His life and perfume are all that he cares for and surrounds himself with.
For example, if Grenouille smelt a desirable scent on someone, he would do anything to get that scent even if he had to harm that person. This demonstrates that he is so tormented with his obsession that he has no care or sympathy for anyone. The protagonists in Lolita, Perfume and Obsession are unaware that their obsession is not only hurting themselves, but hurting others too. They may interpret the obsession as a sign of love, but society views it differently. What does society view it as? Society has a book of rules, and being overly obsessed is viewed negatively and as a huge problem.
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Also, since obsession can often be mistaken as love, it is easy for people to fall into that trap and become victims to that problem. In the three literatures, Lolita, Perfume and Obsession, they all surround on the theme of obsession. In Lolita, it is a story of a man Humbert Humbert, who develops a strong interest in young girls or in his words, “nymphets“. He started having a fixation with young girls ever since his love as a young teenager left him. From there his obsession with nymphets continued, until his one love Lolita completely took over his life.
At this point, Humbert Humbert was willing to give her all she wanted, whether it was material things or money. In Perfume, a different kind of obsession kicked in. As a young boy, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille did not have a scent; this alone had the biggest impact on his life. As he grew older it was something he desperately longed for, as a lack of scent was found odd and unusual in his society. He was abandoned many times when he was a child, not due to his attitude or his behaviour, but due to his lack of smell. Through this experience, he developed a strong obsession of getting certain scents and perfumes.
Eventually he learned the art of perfumery and mastered techniques that no one had done before. However, what was unexpected was the limits he was willing to cross to reach his goal - even limits like murder. Finally, in Obsession, the story is about a girl who is completely in love with her man, again willing to do anything for him. She in ways many may not understand; the words she uses are almost abstract in art. Her obsession is her weakness, even her man knows it and this is what leads to her downfall. He uses her weakness as an advantage and uses it for his own wants and desires, mainly his sexual desires.
When something is unnatural, it means it is altered with. For example, when we pose for a photo it is unnatural thus making the picture look a bit odd to how one sees the world. In Lolita, what is so unnatural about the obsession of the protagonist, Humbert, is the huge age gap between Lolita and him. The cause for Humbert’s obsession is one of his earlier lovers Annabel. She died from a disease called Typhus, which made him long for that feeling of love again. He attempts to experience that kind of love again and as he grows older, however his mentality and maturity still remained the same.
Unlike most people, Humbert does not move on to the future. Instead he makes himself believe he is staying exactly where he used to be emotionally. But physically, he is a man of old age, which makes his want for nymphets really disturbing to society. Then, when Humbert met Lolita, he felt like he had found true love again and was willing to do anything to be with her. For example, when Lolita’s mother Charlotte Haze threatens Humbert with marriage or the consequence is that he has to leave their house, Humbert ultimately sacrifices his own freedom to be with Lolita. [Mrs. Haze] had left half an hour before, and getting Lo instead, I told her I was going to marry her mother. I had to repeat it twice because something was preventing her from giving me her attention” (Nabokov 72). Humbert tells Lolita that he is going to tie the knot with her mother. He is not only doing this to prevent himself from being kicked out, but because he wanted to be able to see Lolita everyday. Not only are his actions sacrificial, they also cause Humbert to lose his liberty, dignity and most importantly himself.
Losing freedom could be compared to being locked in a prison – reason being is that both result in lost of free will or choice. From Lolita’s end, it is very obvious she does not seem to care at all about the marriage. Humbert says, “I had to repeat it twice because something was preventing her from giving me her attention” (Nabokov 72). Marriage was, is and always will be a special event in everybody’s life. However it seems like Lolita was purposely not paying attention and not caring, which gives a clue that she may not feel the same way as Humbert does about her.
Near the end of the novel, Humbert due to his unnatural obsession goes insane when he finds out that Lolita had another lover behind his back. “On his way to kill Quilty he puts on black clothes, ‘I was wearing a black suit, a black shirt, no tie’, the classic western villain” (Quin 1998). Humbert was willing to murder for the love of his life, which society would regard as disgust. Though his love was strong for her, his actions went too far. Murder is a sin and an illicit action that is strongly condemned.
In Perfume, what is so odd about Grenouille’s obsession is that he is fixated with something he longs for. Just like Humbert longed for the feeling of young love, Grenouille longed for the scent he never had. His childhood memories consisted of being passed along and abandoned because he lacked something essential that everyone else in society had. Because of this, he developed a twisted obsession with scents. Also, it encouraged him to strive towards making the ultimate perfume to satisfy and try to fit in society. Just like Humbert, there was nothing anyone could do to stop him – even murder.
Although Humbert, Grenouille and Anonymous’ stories have the same concept of “unnatural obsession”, they all have perspectives of different kinds of obsessions. For Humbert, his story may be disturbing due to the age gap, Grenouille’s is disturbing because he is obsessed with a chemical, and finally Anonymous’ is disturbing because she represents someone with no future and life. Life is a big part of us, and that is why these characters are considered abnormal in society. “Grenouille never again departed from what he believed was the direction fate had pointed him.
It was clear to him why he had clung to life so tenaciously, so savagely. He must become a creator of scents. And not just an average one. But, rather, the greatest perfumer of all time” (Suskind 44). It is evident that Grenouille is committed to his life goal. He wanted to be the God of scents, the creator, and the boss. He did not want anything else in life, which to society may seem odd. For example, since people are so used to seeing what is normal/typical, when they see a person with a disability they often stare at what is out of the norm. The same thing applies for people with and without unnatural obsessions.
Society would treat people with obsessions like they are odd, and even outcast them. But what is the definition of normal and does it apply to everyone? The truth is that the definition of normal differs for everyone. Once again, society has a book of rules and the predetermined definition of normal is a person who has all their body parts, no disabilities, and strives for similar goals in life like success in areas of love, school, work, and their social life. However, Grenouille’s actions do not fall in the category of normal, therefore regarding him as unnatural and irregular. If Grenouille is the hero of the novel, his obsessions are also its informing presence” (Ackroyd 1986). Grenouille’s obsession is so strong, that it could be considered as another person, another living thing, but of course that is what makes it so unnatural. In Obsession, the protagonist who might as well be Anonymous is a young girl who is naive and clueless around the nature of love, therefore she falls in love with the wrong guy. In return, he does nothing but secretly use her for his own sexual desires, showing a very selfish act.
She never realizes the truth about his feelings and continues to mourn for him even after he leaves her. “An obsessive mind, a morbid romantic, struggling between fantasy and reality I dreamed of love” (DaMoyre). The protagonist is aware of her state of tormented mind, but she is unaware of the fact that it is unhealthy for her to keep thinking about him. There are more important things for her to worry about such as work, her social life and school. Her love for her boyfriend is so deep but the problem is that he does not feel the same way.
When their relationship does end, the boyfriend moves on but she stays in the same spot, looking for her next prey. Her obsessive mind does not cure, she just longs for more love, passion and inevitably pain. Although her obsession may not be as odd as Humbert’s or Grenouille’s, it is still considered an unnatural obsession to society. “The term obsession refers to images, ideas, or words that force themselves into the subject's consciousness against their will, and which momentarily deprive them of the ability to think and sometimes even to act” (Hayat 2005).
The word obsessed is something we use in our everyday vocabulary especially in the teenage community. What we do not realize is that the word means much more than intended, just like the word “gay” is. These words have become trends, but they should be taken more seriously because true obsessions can be a disorder. People who are overly obsessed, especially with unordinary things should not be ignored, as it can be a serious problem. For example, Anonymous is unaware that her obsession is hurting anybody, therefore she continues and lets other take advantage of her.
All three literature works are based around an obsession we do not usually encounter or hear about and because of that, the protagonists do not notice that they are harming themselves physically, emotionally, and also the people around them. In today’s world, being isolated is the worst thing because we are educated that isolation causes us to be narrow-minded and not see the other side of the world. In Lolita, Humbert isolates himself from society, especially when he meets young Lolita. He thinks old women are disgusting hags, even if in reality they are beautiful women.
He isolates himself from other things in society that he should be doing. For example, most thirty year old men are trying to fulfill their goals in work or family, but Humbert’s only goal and focus is unlike others around his age – a young innocent girl. “I think I had better describe her right away, to get it over with. The poor lady was in her middle thirties, she has a shiny forehead, plucked eyebrows and quite simple but not attractive features of a type that may be defined as a weak solution of Marlene Dietrich” (Nabokov 37). From what Humbert speaks of, it is fair to draw the conclusion that he is turned off by older woman.
The reason being is since his first young love, he has isolated himself from other selections that may suit him better. For example, if a child had a choice of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry ice cream, but could only choose vanilla because he believed chocolate and strawberry were poisonous, he is then isolating himself from something he could potentially be enjoying. The same concept goes for Humbert, since isolation is consuming his life, he does not see the enjoyment in life that others in society may. And because of that, he is unaware that he is isolating himself and also Lolita along with him.
Lolita is all he ever thinks about which would prevent other thoughts that he could be thinking about, such as “What do I want to become? ” or “Do I love Lolita, or the childhood memories of Annabel? ” However, Humbert does not realize this and goes on being blind to what is happening to him. “Lolita, on the other hand, is all colour. Humbert thinks of her as ‘a little ghost in natural colours and as ‘the beautiful warm coloured prey’ (Quin 1998). As already stated, it is obvious Humbert spends a little too much time thinking about Lolita, and making her thousands of different meaningful poems about her.
In Perfume, it is even more obvious than Humbert that he isolates himself. In Grenouille’s case, he has to work hard to get to his goal. At first when he is learning to incorporate different ingredients and natural scents into his perfume experiments, he discloses himself from anyone and everyone. He concentrates and focuses on the perfumes and nothing else, thus hiding himself from society. “After a few weeks Grenouille had mastered not only the names of all the odours in Baldini’s laboratory, but he was also able to record the formulas for his perfumes and other scented products. And not merely that!
Once he learned to express his fragrant ideas in drops and drams, he no longer needed the intermediate step of experimentation” (Suskind 92). All the skills and methods he learned and mastered in perfumery took him a lot of time, which resulted in isolation once again. He isolates himself in the laboratory to test his experiments, discover new methods to preserve scents, and come up with new aromas to put on himself. To skip an intermediate step in experimentation is probably Grenouille’s biggest achievement, and if one were to predict how long he spent doing so, it would be days after days of isolation from society.
Of course, society does not view this as normal behavioural traits. Nonetheless what does the society book of rules say about isolation? For one it states that one needs their own time alone, but only briefly. If isolation happens, there is definitely a problem developing. “You cannot have both love and life; to demand both is to come to a grisly end” (Prescott 1986). In Grenouille’s case, this is what he thinks but is reality like that? Many successful people out there have both a life and love; it is not a big deal to balance the essentials in your life.
For example Hilary Duff is now known as a worldwide singer and actress, she gets along with her family fine and although she just broke up with a long time boyfriend, she is not sad about it she does not isolate herself because she has a job to do – make music for the world to hear. In Obsession, Anonymous isolates herself thinking about her lover, just like Humbert does. All throughout the poem, instead of expressing her feelings of the world around her, she talks constantly about her lover and how she misses him. “A trap, a cage, prison of death underground” (DaMoyre).
She expresses herself trapped in a cage just like being in a prison of death underground. She is being suffocated like a prison underneath his love and she pulls him with her. She is isolated from society, and as a teenager she is supposed to have a future for herself, but apparently does not seem to have one. Again, she is aware of herself being isolated and isolating her lover, but what she is unaware of is that it is unhealthy to both her and her lover. Instead of keeping him by her side, knowing he is not cheating or whatever she is trying to prevent, she is making their relationship go downhill.
What is the difference between love and obsession? Love is when you are passionate about something or someone and appreciate them for what they are. Obsession on the other hand is love except it is on an extreme level in which that something or someone is the only though in your mind, the only thing in your life. There is a thin line between love and obsession, and it is very easy to mix the two around and maybe possibly mistaken one for the other. Humbert thinks of Lolita as a lover, and would probably never classify himself of having an obsession with her.
Most people are unaware that they are crossing the line just because it is hard for them to distinguish the difference. Humbert has been a person trapped in an obsessed world all his life, even with his first love Annabel. They were young and naive and therefore experimenting with young love, but even when she died he had memories of her. He never threw away those memories until he met Lolita. For most people, although it is painful to have someone you loved pass away, but one would mourn over it, and then move on because there are bigger things out there in this world. However Humbert did not seem to believe this. Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta” (Nabokov 9). Among the first few lines of the book, it feels like Humbert just stepped over the line to obsession because books usually start pleasantly setting the image for the reader. However he displays a selfish impression and talks about his love without being kind to the reader and explaining what is going on. Oftentimes, people would say, “I love ice cream” or “I really love this song”, but do we really mean it? Do we really love that song? Sometimes it so happens we do, but people are misusing the word love.
What does love mean by the society’s book of rules? Well for one, it is a word that is mainly used for a person that you have been in a relationship for some time. It only makes sense to use it for someone you truly care about, not something that is just going to be another phase in life. But that is when obsession kicks in, once you truly love someone it is really close to becoming that obsession you never wanted to encounter. The definition of obsession is just a step higher than love; it is not that far away which is why obsession is taking over the protagonists in the three literature works so easily. Humbert refers to Lolita’s “tender, mysterious, impure, indifferent, twilight eyes” and to the “smoother, tender bloom” of her (Pifer 1999). It is obvious that as lovers, it is nice when one compliments another to make them feel better and have a day full of enjoyment. But Humber again goes far out on it, and describes her like she’s a flower or animal that he uses for pleasure. He describes Lolita as the love of his life, but does he really love her or is it more than that? He does not just love her, he is obsessed and it is evident that not even he can stop himself.
But because he is so obsessed, he is treating Lolita in a way that a young girl should not be treated like, he is making her experience things she should not be experiencing until she is a fully grown adult. Of course due to his desire to satisfy his sexual wants, he does not care about anything else, just Lolita and her tender young body. Instead of relationship, Grenouille in Perfume has a strong passion to search for the perfect scent since he was deprived of a human odour. It is true that most people have a strong passion for something.
For example Craig Kielburger had a passion for helping others, which is why when he was only at the age of ten saw a newspaper about poor families in Africa, and desperately wanting to help, created a well-known organization “Free the Children”. When one is passionate about something, they will do whatever it takes to reach their goal. This is what Grenouille is like, but instead of being just passionate about something, he becomes obsessed which is how he brings the downfall upon himself as well as others. As his obsession grew deeper and developed stronger, he brought the downfall of others by murdering them one by one for their odour.
When he was born and knew he was different from what the rest of society was like, he stepped over the line to obsession. He spent a majority of his life in the lab just trying to reach his ultimate goal, was creating the perfect scent doable? What does society view the word “perfect” as? The word perfect is used in our everyday vocabulary, but again it is misused as the word “love” is misused. “Nobody is perfect” is the famous phrase you hear, because it is true, we were created as human beings to sin and make mistakes, so knowing this, it is true Grenouille’s goal is unreachable. As he came out onto the street, he was suddenly afraid, for he knew that for the first time in his life he was giving off a human odor” (Suskind 151). He creates a human odour for himself so he can finally fit into society and be a normal person, but is that what he is? Throughout the whole book he seemed so desperate to find that scent that he was obsessed and over driven about it, that in the end trying to be normal is not normal. “It was the fresh odor of the approaching day, of the first daybreak that he had ever known in freedom. That odor had been the pledge of freedom.
It had been the pledge of a different life. The odor of that morning was for Grenouille the door of hope. He guarded it carefully. And he drank it daily” (Suskind 129). Grenouille now was so in love, so obsessed with odours and scents that he guarded it like it was money. In every society, money seems to be the base of everything, it meant power and high status, however, Grenouille does not care. In his world it seems that perfume is everything, scent is everything and having an odour is everything. He is so unaware that he does whatever it takes to fit in society, even committing the act of murder.
Does Grenouille just love his job as a perfumer or is he infatuated to believe that he had to prove to everyone that he is just like everyone else? As Perfume continues, a story of a murderer, he becomes insanely obsessed, crazy and mad to murder every woman who had the scent he was looking for that instead of working hard to be successful, he murders to come to his success. Throughout the whole story of the poem Obsession, the protagonist thinks she is in love with her lover and that she cannot live without him because she loves him so much. What she may not realize is that she has crossed the border of love and into her obsession.
Her unawareness makes he think that it is a norm for over love for another in a relationship. The truth is love is a complex thing, but not as complex as she depicts it as. “And thought, ‘His face shall be my last vision when I die’” (DaMoyre). She pictures her future but not about how happy she will be and how successful she will be, but that the image of her lover’s face will be her last vision. If anything is obsessive, this statement she makes wins it all. Anonymous is young and she is inexperienced, because of that she has no idea what she is doing, and all the things she does not notice herself doing.
However the things she does not notice such as her unawareness of obsession seems all a little unrealistic although it does happen. A love relationship is something that should not be complex especially at a young age, because it takes away from the important things such as family, friends and school. In the poem, it does not mention anything about her family, friends or education; her world only consists of herself and her lover. As the definition of obsession was stated before, her life fits exactly into the definition.
She is not exposed to society but since her lover does not even love her, he might tell his friends about the story, and his friends posing as society would look at her an insane and mad human being since she is again viewed as someone who is not normal. Instead of making her boyfriend love her, she makes him dislike her more and more which will hurt herself in return because she suffocates him emotionally so much. Unawareness is not only causing one’s emotional distress over the differences between love and obsession, it causes them to not even realize the condition they are in such as isolation and a strong unnatural love.
Humbert’s unnatural love in Lolita is finding girls too young for him, he works hard detaching himself from society thinking about Lolita and not conscious that he is possessed by thoughts about her. A similar thing happens to Grenouille in Perfume, he detaches once again himself from society for society, in other words his aim to reach the goal of the perfect scent is to satisfy society’s outlook on him and to fit in it as well. He becomes obsessed unknowingly, but because his obsession is so twisted and odd, society views him as someone who is different.
Finally in Obsession, Anonymous is unaware that her love for her lover is pushing him farther instead of closer. In all these literature works, one thing they have in common is that their obsession hurts others as well as themselves physically and emotionally and they are unconscious of it happening. Because of that, the characters suffer thinking that they are satisfying others but in reality, they are just hurting them which is opposite of what they wanted to do in the first place. Thus being unaware of the problem is worse than being conscious of it. In terms of obsession vs. ove, there isn’t a major difference in the three characters because they all cannot distinguish between the two. However there is some kind of difference to when readers discover their unawareness. For example, Humbert only had obsession in his life since his first love in his life, and for Grenouille, it started when he realized people were abandoning him due to his lack of smell. Finally, for Anonymous, it all starts when her boyfriend leads her on and she falls for the trap of his invisible love. Obsession does not only exist in storybooks, but they also exist in the real world.
It’s happened to young kids, teenagers and adults. Let’s face it, it has happened to the vast majority of everyone. First, learning that your inspiration is a person or object, and then loving them so much, one would do anything to fulfill their desire associated with them. Finally, obsession rises and nothing can stop their love for that person or object. For example, a Chinese actor named Andy Lau had an obsessive fan. It seems nothing out of the ordinary but this particular obsessive fan had a father as a reporter and demanded to get a signature and photo from her favourite actor.
However, when the father failed to do so, not only was he disappointed, but he was so disappointed and did not want to disappoint her daughter he committed suicide. The moral of the story: the media brain washes us into thinking that being the rich and the famous is the only goal in life thus why obsession exists today. Humbert, Grenouille and Anonymous are just like the daughter and father have an unawareness of their obsession with something or someone leads them to their downfall.
The story also proves that an obsession of one person does not just affect themselves, it affects the people they care for and the people that they influence everyday. Works Cited Ackroyd, Peter. "Patrick Suskind. " Contemporary Literary Criticism. 1986. Adams, Robert M. "Patrick Suskind. " Contemporary Literary Criticism. 1986. Barber, Charles. "The brain: a mindless obsession. " The Wilson Quarterly 32. 1 (Wntr 2008): 32(13). General OneFile. Gale. Markham Public Libraries (CELPLO). 26 May 2008 . Hayat, Marc. "Psychoanalysis: Obsession. " Large Print Press 24 May 2008 .
Pifer, Ellen. His monster, his nymphet: Nabokov and Mary Shelley. New York: Cambridge University Press , 1999. Prescott, Peter S. "Patrick Suskind. " Contemporary Literary Criticism. 1986. Simon, Schama. "Patrick Suskind. " Contemporary Literary Criticism. 1986. Quin, John D.. Nabokov's World. New York: Penguin Books, 1998. Updike, John. "Patrick Suskind. " Contemporary Literary Criticism. 1986. Annotated Bibliography Ackroyd, Peter. "Patrick Suskind. "Contemporary Literary Criticism. 1986. This author writes his opinion on Patrick Suskind’s novel, Perfume.
It is written in an encyclopedia format where they critique an author’s works. In this critique he describes the setting and idea of Perfume that it’s a story about odour and the whole surprising fact that Jean-Baptiste Grenouille does not have a scent at all. I took a quote from this author’s critique and it helped proved my point which was that Grenouille’s obsession is so strong that it has a separate presence. It is relevant to my essay because my thesis is to prove that they are unaware of the character’s obsessions. Hayat, Marc. "Psychoanalysis: Obsession. " Large Print Press 24 May 2008 .
The author is writing what the definition of obsession is in an online journal and article. Many people are not aware of what obsession is because everyone may have a different definition. However, society will always portray one definition of obsession so I took a quote that defined the way society viewed obsession. It is relevant to my essay because one of my arguments is obsession vs. love. Lehmann-Haupt, Christopher. Nabokov's World. New York: Penguin Books, 1998. Christopher Lehmann-Haupt wrote a very long and intriguing critique on Perfume, however I found no use for it.
It talked a lot about how we feel sympathy for Grenouille’s character because he was born destined to have no scent and to ultimately be a killer. It didn’t really help me because it didn’t support my thesis nor any of my arguments. Pifer, Ellen. His monster, his nymphet: Nabokov and Mary Shelley. New York: Cambridge University Press , 1999. This author compares the monster in Mary Shelley’s book Frankenstein to Vladimir Nabokov’s novel Lolita. In the comparison, she describes Humbert indirectly as a person who may be questionable about his love for Lolita. He almost describes her like an object or animal in the quote I found.
It is relevant to my essay because it fits right in to my argument of obsession vs. love and whether or not he knows the line between it. Quin, John D.. Nabokov's World. New York: Penguin Books, 1998. This author talked a lot about Humbert’s obsession with nymphets. He talked about Humbert’s feelings when he went and decided to kill Lolita’s other lover. I took a quote from it which described how far Humbert was willing to go for love. This source is relevant to my essay because it shows the unnatural obsession of Humbert which is again one of my arguments.
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