“Katherine Anne Porter's short story "Flowering Judas" is a story of betrayal and psychological imbalance.”
Laura, a twenty-two-year-old American who teaches school and participates in the revolution in Mexico
Braggioni, the leader of the revolution and suitor of Laura
Mrs. Braggioni, his wife, who works hard for the revolution and weeps for her husband
Eugenio, a political prisoner who takes an overdose of narcotics, which he has obtained from Laura
Laura, the principal character in “Flowering Judas,” is a young woman who spends her days teaching English to Mexican Indian children, attending union meetings, and visiting political prisoners, for whom she runs errands and brings messages. Despite all this activity, Laura appears emotionally uninvolved, doing her work, listening to the children and the prisoners, and particularly, listening courteously to the wretched singing almost nightly of Braggioni, a revolutionary leader. Egotistical and cruel, Braggioni appears unaware of Laura's unspoken revulsion and anger at him.
Laura does feel betrayed by the discrepancy between the way she lives and what she feels life should be. She also feels fear — of Braggioni, who symbolizes her disillusionment, of danger, of death. She is caught between her commitment to her present life and her rejection of her life before she came to Mexico.
Laura has been courted by a young captain in the army, but she rejects him, making her horse shy when the soldier tries to take her in his arms. Another young man has serenaded her as he stood under the blossoms of the Judas tree on her patio, but again she is only disturbed by him; she feels nothing more for him than she does for her pupils, who she realizes are strangers to her.
Wearing a nun like dress with a lace-edged collar, Laura strives to attain stoicism, drawing strength from a single word which epitomizes her aloofness and fear: no. Using that word as a talisman, she can practice denial, fearlessness, detachment.
Eugenio, the third young man in Laura's life, is not a suitor; he is a prisoner to whom she brought the narcotics he had requested. When she tells Braggioni that Eugenio has taken all the tablets at once and has gone into a stupor, Braggioni is unmoved, calling him a fool. He then departs, and Laura senses that he will not return for a while. She realizes that she is free and that she should run, but she does not leave. She goes to bed; in her sleep, Eugenio appears and takes her to “a new country,” which he calls death. He makes her seat of the flowers of the Judas tree, calling her a murderer and cannibal. The sound of her voice crying “No!” awakens her, and she is afraid to go back to sleep.
The theme of betrayal is first suggested by the title of the story, the red blossoms of the Judas tree being a well-known symbol of the betrayal of Jesus Christ by one of his disciples. Laura feels that she has been betrayed by ...