In the novel Perfume

In the novel Perfume, Patrick Suskind accomplishes the rare triumph of creating a main character, Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, who is both a protagonist and antagonist, even though he’s completely loathsome to the average person. The paradox of Grenouille being odorless and unable to smell himself, yet being able to so attentively detect even the atom of an odor emanating from anyone or anything else is both a great blessing and a curse. Jean-Baptiste Grenouille has been pushed around his whole life, lacking love and body odor, setting him apart from everyone. Grenouille grows up in an orphanage run by an insensitive woman named Madame Gaillard who doesn’t have a functioning sense of smell as a result of being wacked in the face with a fireplace poker as a child. Being that, she isn’t aware that Grenouille is odorless, so she isn’t off put or alarmed by his creepiness as the other children are. It isn’t until he shows what she imagines to be “psychic” abilities that she begins to grow wary of him – particularly after he’s able to sniff out where her hidden stack of money is when she can’t find it herself.
This leads Grenouille to a tanner named Grimal. Grenouille overcomes an infection that’s meant to kill and Grimal starts to treat him better, knowing he’s valuable to the job. Grenouille is compared to a tick all through the novel, with his ability to wait for years until smelling a chance on which to prey, he becomes more and more loathsome as the tale progresses. The core of his persona is “The tick had scented blood. It had been dormant for years, encapsulated, and had waited.” Grenouille’s skill for calm standby leads him to working for famed but failing Paris parfumeur Giuseppe Baldini, who grudgingly makes him his assistant after smelling the rousing results of his work. While Baldini becomes known worldwide off the scents that Grenouille creates, Grenouille plans on traveling to the south of France so that he can learn more about how to distill and preserve scents. Baldini’s happy to see him go in exchange for more perfume formulas. Baldini’s building falls off the bridge and into the water right after Grenouille leaves–telling of the destruction he quietly wreaks wherever he goes.
Grenouille retreats into the mountaintops and it’s at this point in the story that the shift toward complete antagonist begins, as he retreats into a mountaintop cave where he has no human contact for seven years. It’s here that he comes to the sobering conclusion that he is completely odorless. A nightmare in which he drowns in his own scent forces him to leave the cave with a new plan in mind: create a perfume that will make him the most powerful man alive.
After being questioned, Grenouille is allowed back into society in the town of Grasse, where he becomes a second craftsman to Druot, the lover of the woman who owns a perfumery. It is now, in all his tick-like fashion that he waits and collects the materials he needs to create the most intoxicating perfume ever known. The key ingredients being lushly scented virgins. He instills fear in everyone, going about the business of murdering twenty-four women throughout Grasse during the span of a year. No one suspects him because of he lacks scent. Because of this, “he succeeded in being considered totally uninteresting.” Later on, he kills a red-headed girl and is caught leaving the scene. Grenouille is tried for murder and sentenced to a painful death in the town square. Calm and unmoved as he’s told his sentence, Grenouille chooses the moment of his release in the square to apply a mere drop of the elixir he has created. Instantaneously, everyone in town forgets everything they thought he was capable of and throw themselves at him, and into a mass orgy–the sight of which sickens Grenouille. “…in that moment, as he saw and smelled how irresistible its effect was and how with lightning speed it spread and made captives of the people all around him—in that moment his disgust for humankind rose up again within him and completely soured his triumph, so that he felt not only no joy, but not even the least bit of satisfaction. What he had always longed for—that other people should love him—became at the moment of his achievement unbearable, because he did not love them himself, he hated them. And suddenly he knew that he had never found gratification in love, but always only in hatred—in hating and in being hated.” And so, in spite of how cruel Grenouille is and how the end life comes to, he’s the only protagonist we’ve got in Perfume.