Mother Teresa once claimed that her spirituality intensified when she realized that a Hitler lived inside of her. Carl Jung also explored the Shadow: the most frightening part of our psyches that we repress into darkness. When I read Katherine Anne Porter’s "Flowering Judas" I had one word to describe her as a person and as a writer: courageous. In "Flowering Judas," Porter confronts the demons of death and betrayal through her main character, However, she inverts our expectation as readers, for Laura is the betrayer rather than the betrayed, the murderer rather than victim. Blind to her own crimes throughout, Laura realizes her crimes only at the story’s end, when a dream (the unconscious state unclouded by self-deception) reveals Laura to herself as she truly is: a monster.
In the beginning, Porter conceals Laura’s nature, just as Laura denies it herself. She plays the part of an innocent white girl squirming beneath Braggioni’s predatory sexual attention in a revolutionary Central American country. Without realizing it, we side with the helpless female figure, intelligent yet unable to defend against a hostile man in a turbulent and dangerous place. However, Laura is not the victim we assume her to be. Nor is she a heroine of the revolution. As the story continues, her actions and connections are deflated of idealistic intentions. Instead, she has aligned with Braggioni, a revolutionary leader who is self-absorbed, misogynistic, ugly, heartless, and violent. He acts as the villainous Godfather figure and Laura herself is one of his thugs.
For she, too, is a murderer, acting on Braggioni’s behalf. In her dream at the end of the story, Eugenio stands as her accuser, an imprisoned revolutionary whom Laura has given pills to help him “sleep.” But are these pills intended to relieve or to kill? Couldn’t they silence him and his confessions? The reader doesn’t know if he has died at the story's close; however, Laura has given him drugs that can result in his death, and therefore she is culpable, a murderer.
Remaining mysterious, Laura withholds herself from the Latin community as a single woman, disconnected from friendship, family, or sexual liaisons. At the same time, inextricably drawn to where the power lies, she enacts Braggioni’s commands. Although she finds him repulsive, she is docile, quiet, and obedient. As a result, Eugenio—and others whom she “assists” in prison—will be sacrificed (like Jesus Christ) thanks to Laura, a Judas. Flowering in her feminine beauty, but deadly nonetheless, she represents a terrifying aspect of humanity: our willingness to blindly align with power at whatever cost. Katherine Anne Porter conveys the all-too-human quality of lying to ourselves in duplicitous preservation, the facile blindness that keep us in ignorance to our monstrous qualities. Laura may resist Braggioni, but he is her own shadow, and until she realizes this, she cannot be free. Interestingly, although Braggioni leads her into the Underworld, he may also be her healer in mirroring the truth. For once seeing herself clearly, she may rising above the hell of self-realization, and live in the light once again.