How does memory and scent affect Hannibal?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Memory and scent are represented in a distinctive manner.  As a student and teacher of psychology, Lecter is able to recognize that memory and scent are connected to one another.  In the absence of the physical experience of the past, Lecter believes that scent and other sensory imagery can help to provide it.  Lecter understands that the past is unable to be recreated in a physical sense.  Yet, the power of the mind to recreate it through sensory imagery such as scent becomes powerfully compelling.  It is in this where Lecter grasps the power of scent in the mind of the individual.

Harris writes such an idea within his construction of Hannibal's characterization. In describing the mind, Harris indicates the power of sensory imagery such as scent in Hannibal's understanding of the past:

In the vaults of our hearts and brains, danger waits. All the chambers are not lovely, light and high. There are holes in the floor of the mind, like those in a medieval dungeon floor-the stinking oubliettes, named for forgetting, bottle-shaped cells in solid rock with the trapdoor in the top. Nothing escapes from them quietly to ease us. A quake, some betrayal by our safeguards, and sparks of memory fire the noxious gases- things trapped for years fly free, ready to explode in pain and drive us to dangerous behavior...

Human memory is triggered by such scents as "noxious gases" and "sinking oubliettes."  For Lecter, the mind's power to recreate the past is evident in the power of smell.  The "vaults" of human subjectivity can only be opened and triggered through experiences such as smell.  Lecter understands that memory is elusive.  It is something that can only be fully relived through physical reality such as experiences as smell.  It is in this regard that Lecter's own past is one in a vault, unlocked through sensory imagery.  Scent and taste are sensory experiences where the past can be revealed, the keys to unlock the vault.  It is in this regard where memory and scent impact and affect Hannibal.