How does Katherine Anne Porter use prose style in Flowering Judas?

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durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Flowering Judas by Katherine Anne Porter is a short story, basically "a day in the life of..." Laura is unable to escape her life even though she has "uneasy premonitions of the future." It is as if she is trapped not by something tangible or visible, but rather by her own apathy. The reader is made aware that her days are monotonous and her routine does not change despite her contempt for Braggioni. However, her fear of him is stronger and "nobody has the courage" to correct him or question him. Porter's prose style supports this view as the language is not embellished or exaggerated and this reinforces Laura's helplessness.  

In the absence of any subplot, the reader is, through the third person narrator, drawn inside Laura's thoughts but there is no resolution, only parallels as Laura considers the various people in her life. Porter contrasts the contradictory aspects of Laura's life through an almost stream-of-consciousness style where the reader shares Laura's conflict as she considers her options but without her own direct involvement or unfocused dialogue and potential day-dreaming. It is possible that Laura cannot be trusted to share her own story. Her sense of "betrayal" because the revolutionaries are not the vision of perfection she expected and her disillusionment are apparent. Porter reveals this as her excuse for being "almost contented to rest in this sense of grievance as a private store of consolation."

Laura knows she will not find consolation in church but she makes an effort, hoping that she will find answers. When she doesn't, rather than blame her own lack of faith, she blames her "principles." Laura knows that the longer she stays, the more "callous" she will become. Porter uses this concept of Laura's ideals and her reality as a theme. The symbolism is subtle, contained in the narrative style she uses. Porter uses Laura and the way she treats everything the same while revealing little emotion as an insight. In Laura's life, nothing really stands out. She gives equal treatment and consideration to her visits to the prisoners and her job as a teacher. She is aware of her situation and it is Porter's language without flourishes that allows Laura to stand outside herself as if she is not part of her own world and "not at home." Nothing is rushed, nothing is extraordinary and nothing is exciting. The most Laura can manage is to be "pleasantly disturbed" by the passing interest of a young man.

Laura resents Braggioni's stifling attention but does nothing. Her lack of purpose prevents her from running. Porter adapts her style to show some momentum as it builds as if the reader will see some passion in Laura, but it is not sustainable and Laura "does not go." Laura's life and her purpose are summed up: "Denying everything, she may walk anywhere in safety, she looks at everything without amazement." 

Only in her dream and her feelings of guilt does Laura expose herself. Just as she dares to look beyond her life and is momentarily not afraid, wondering where Eugenio might take her, she is cruelly brought back down to earth. The symbolism in the tree and "my body and my blood" almost destroys Laura because she becomes the betrayer. Porter returns Laura to the same place she was before, awake and afraid. Porter cleverly leaves the reader wondering whether this is Laura's epiphany, her realization. 

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