The Smell By Michelle Hagen Analysis

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Growing up, Michelle Hagen lived near a large factory in Cincinnati that produced what she and her sisters called The Smell. The aroma was dynamic and unpredictable, almost like a living thing. On some hot summer days, it was thick and sweet, and when it drifted over Hagen's neighborhood -- a series of row houses by the interstate -- it was as if molasses had been poured through the streets. At other times, the smell was protein-rich and savory. Many of the odors triggered specific associations -- birthday cake, popcorn, chicken-noodle soup -- and they stayed with her. In 1992, Hagen went to the University of Cincinnati to study art, but she soon turned to science, majoring in biology. She never imagined that she would end up working in the…show more content…
She is a brunette, with straight hair that falls just below her shoulders. She is not thin, but her face is, and it lights up easily. She prefers things that are vivid. Beneath her lab coat, Hagen is sure to be wearing some bright-hued article of clothing -- a scarf, a sweater. She holds her hair back with sunglasses, in summer and in winter. After spending even a short time with her, one can't help but think of Roald Dahl's Willy Wonka, who believed that the manufacture of flavors -- particularly the sweet and flashy ones that go into candy, chewing gum, and marshmallow -- demands a childlike openness. At the end of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," Wonka tells Charlie Bucket that an adult could never run his factory. "Mind you, there are thousands of clever men who would give anything for the chance to come in and take over from me, but I don't want that sort of person," he says. "I don't want a grown-up person at all." But Wonka surely would have hired Hagen. Her office resembles a walk-in high-school locker, if such a thing existed. The walls are covered with magazine clippings, photographs, and Post-its; a clock-size Swatch with a blue kangaroo painted on it; and a dry-erase board with lists of words meant to inspire flavor creation ("baobab," "jujube," "mamoncillo"). Tacked here and there are paint chips from Benjamin Moore, which she once used as aides to memorize the aromas of approximately a thousand chemicals. California Lilac was ethyl isovalerate; Mellow Yellow was gamma

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