Friday, July 9, 2010

Flowering Judas - Katherine Anne Porter

Author: Katherine Anne Porter
Date: 1929
Setting: Mexico during the revolution of the 1910's
Availability: in various collections, see link below

Story: Laura is a young woman living in Mexico during the Mexican Revolution. She is beautiful but reserved. Some feel that she is haughty, others that she is pure, or cold. Her tasks include running messages for the revolution including taking drugs to political prisoners.

This is not an action story, but rather a journey inside the thoughts of Laura. She is being courted by Braggioni, a leader of the revolution, yet he has a wife whom he treats rudely. Braggioni comes to her house to sing to her each evening. His singing, appearance, and actions repulse Laura, but she is afraid to antagonize him. Through her thoughts we learn of her dedication for the revolution, and of the many men who would like to ravish her. A young man comes and sings at her window each night, and follows her through the streets. Her reputation, however, is that she always says “no,” and maintains her virginity.

We learn that she teaches English to children, and outwardly supports the revolution. However, she yields to a desire to return to pray in church, secretly hoping that she is not caught. She remains “holy” by returning always to the word “no.” She also rebels against the worker ideal of the revolution by preferring hand-made lace on her collars.

Braggioni warns her of a coming conflict between the revolution and the church and makes her load his pistol for use on that fateful day.

She tells him of young Eugenio who has chosen to overdose on the drugs she has delivered and to die in prison. Braggioni replies that Eugenio is of no consequence, and that he is a fool. But Laura is apparently secretly in love with Eugenio.

This is a complex and confusing story of external and internal conflict. Much has been written about what “Flowering Judas” means. It is often used as an outstanding example of symbolism. Yet, it’s not always clear just what the message is meant to be.

Certainly there is the conflict of the political purity of the revolution with the rigidity of the Church. Yet the Church stands for personal purity which the leaders of the revolution seem to completely lack. Laura feels the pull of all these forces within her, and tries to ignore committing herself by remaining aloof, and a virgin from genuine involvement. Then, she is confronted in a dream, at the conclusion, with her own evil. Will she embrace the holiness of Christ (the Eucharist) or accept the body and blood of Judas?

Author info:Katherine Anne Porter, 1890-1980, was an American author known for her short stories, and one best-selling novel, Ship of Fools. She was the fourth of five children, and her mother died giving birth to the fifth. Their father took the children to live with his mother, Catherine Ann Porter, and the child later adapted the grandmother’s name as her own. Porter did live in Mexico, and was involved briefly in the Mexican leftist movement in the 1920's. She reputedly wrote “Flowering Judas” in one evening, after visualizing the ending. She was the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize in 1966 for her Collected Short Stories.

Unusual Words:
corridos- ballads

Memorable quotes:
"One woman is really as good as another for me, in the dark. I prefer them all." (Braggioni)

Language skills 10
Depth of meaning 10