Flowering Judas by Katherine Anne Porter
In Flowering Judas by Katherine Anne Porter we have the theme of fear, apathy, power, corruption, guilt and betrayal. Taken from her collection of the same name the story is narrated in the third person by an unnamed narrator and after reading the the story the reader realises that Porter may be exploring the theme of fear and apathy. Laura has no interest in listening to Braggioni playing his guitar and there is a sense that like others she does so because she is afraid of Braggioni. Such is the power that Braggioni wields those around him are afraid to upset or cross him. If anything Braggioni is allowed to do as he likes around others (and Laura). It is also noticeable that Laura is somewhat apathetic when it comes to Braggioni, the young man who recites poetry for her and the army officer. She shows very little or no interest in their activities and does not wish to be involved with them in any way that may be construed as being romantic. Though some critics might suggest that Laura is showing an independent streak when it comes to the men in the story it is more likely that she is uncomfortable with the position she finds herself in and may prefer to alienate or isolate herself from others.
Porter also appears to be exploring the theme of corruption. Despite his comrades being in jail Braggioni does nothing to help them. He seems to be more preoccupied with the spoils of war that he has accumulated for himself than he is on helping others. He lives his life as luxurious as he can without concern for those who have also fought alongside him in the revolution. If anything Braggioni is apathetic towards his comrades and may in fact be betraying them by his lack of help. There is also a sense that Laura lives a very comfortable life. Though she is helping others (the prisoners and the school children) she does not want for anything materially. It may also be important that Laura feels as though she is unable to connect with the school children that she teaches as this would further play on the theme of isolation. Laura seems to be hesitant about making a commitment towards others. Though the revolution is a part of her daily life she sees the negative side of it unlike Braggioni who is more focused on himself. It is possible that Laura is deliberately alienating herself from not only Braggioni but others too due to the fact that she is able to see the negative side of revolution. She may be dispirited and may not want any part of the revolution.
It may also be a case that Porter is exploring the theme of guilt. It is possible that Laura feels guilty over Eugenio’s death, blaming herself and the revolution for what has happened to him. If things had of been different Eugenio would still be alive. It is also possible that Laura fears for the future particularly if the reader considers how selfish Braggioni has been. Things may not necessarily be as Laura would like them to be and if anything Laura may realise that Braggioni is more fanatical than practical when it comes to the revolution. Living his life based on idealism rather than on practicality. Laura on the other hand through her experience with the men in prison and the school children realises that with revolution comes the need for structured change (which appears to have happened). Something that Braggioni may not be aware of due to his idealism. Mrs Braggioni’s character may also be important as it is possible that by introducing her into the story Porter is further exploring the idea of fanaticism. Mrs Braggioni is fanatical about her husband. Crying continuously for him while he is away fighting. Then on his return she pleads for his forgiveness when the reality is it is Braggioni who should be seeking forgiveness from his wife.
The end of the story is also interesting as Porter appears to be using a dream sequence to further explore the theme of betrayal. Laura while she is being led by Eugenio eats the flowers from the Judas tree. This may be important as symbolically Porter may be suggesting that Laura has taken communion (flesh and blood) from the Judas tree. Which may suggest that Laura has the capacity to betray Braggioni and the revolution. Though whether she does is left to each individual reader to decide. Porter does not progress the story further than Laura waking up from the dream so it is difficult to say for certain as to whether Laura does indeed betray Braggioni and the revolution. Some critics may suggest that Laura is tired of Braggioni and his selfishness, particularly towards the men in prison, while others might suggest that Laura by calling out ‘No’ in her dream has no intention of betraying Braggioni or the revolution. Whatever the case may be one thing is certain. Laura and Braggioni have two very different views when it comes to the revolution. Laura is looking for practicality while Braggioni is happy to enjoy the spoils of war and continue fighting while at the same time forgetting about those who have paid a heavier price than him.