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Last Updated on October 26, 2018, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 761

In “Flowering Judas,” Laura, after teaching school and visiting Eugenio in prison, comes home to be warned by Lupe, the maid, that Braggioni is waiting for her. Although she detests his presence, Laura, a young American, allows the Mexican revolutionary leader to sing to her. She is afraid of him, as he is known for his cruelty and vanity. As she “owes her comfortable situation and her salary to him,” however, she does her best to tolerate him. For the past month he has been spending the evenings with her. Laura is in the precarious predicament of attempting to resist his advances without seeming to do so. His “gluttonous bulk . . . has become a symbol of her disillusions” with revolution and leaders. Braggioni has come to represent the disunion between her idealistic view of life and the life she is actually living.

Born a Roman Catholic, Laura still slips into a church now and then but can no longer find comfort in it. She instead tries to embrace revolutionary theories but without much success. Her private heresy is not to wear lace made by machines, even though the machine is “sacred” to the revolutionary forces with which she is working. She fears that she may become as corrupt as Braggioni, who sits before her in his expensive clothes and his great self-love. As he sings his love songs and lectures on his philosophy, Laura wonders why she stays in Mexico. She teaches the Indian children, attends union meetings, visits political prisoners, smuggles letters and drugs, and delivers messages. However, her motives are unclear.

To the Mexicans who know her and see her in the street, Laura is an erotic mystery. Although she remains aloof she is admired for her green eyes, sensual lips, beautiful walk, large breasts, and long legs. The legendary virginity of the gringita spurs Braggioni and other potential lovers into constant courtship—but Laura says no to everyone. Not even the children are able to penetrate her remoteness, and they, too, remain strangers to her. The word “no” becomes symbolic of Laura’s entire existence, as she denies to all people and things the chance to affect her emotions. Braggioni, however, believes that he has all the time in the world to break down her resistance. As a teenager, Braggioni was rejected by his first sweetheart, and now he makes every woman pay for the anguish he suffered. His wife is included in this vengeance, despite her devotion to him and to the revolution. She works hard organizing unions for the cigarette factory girls but spends much of her time weeping for Braggioni because this is what he prefers. Currently, he is observing a month of separation from her for what he describes as higher principles. Laura, though, envies Mrs. Braggioni’s loneliness because she feels trapped by Braggioni’s persistent presence. As he sings on, she reflects on her visit to the prison that day and on Eugenio’s condition.

Braggioni interrupts her thoughts by telling of the May Day disturbances he is planning for Morelia, where the Catholics and the Socialists will be having celebrations. He asks Laura to oil and load his pistols, while he speaks of revolution and sings of love. He wraps his fingers around the throat of the guitar as he sings, and he strokes the pistol in Laura’s hands as he expounds on Marxist philosophy and his faith in dynamite. Laura finally hands back his gunbelt and tells him to make himself happy by killing someone in Morelia. When he leaves, Laura feels a sense of relief, but she does not flee, as she knows she should.

Braggioni goes home, ending the month long separation from his wife. She continues her weeping at his appearance and even offers to wash his feet. As she performs the task, she begs for his forgiveness. Braggioni happily consents because her endless tears and humility refresh him.

Laura, meanwhile, prepares for bed. Before she falls asleep, she is concerned about her confusion with love and revolution: her inability to understand what her life is all about. Haunted by the thought of Eugenio, who may be dead by now as a result of taking the drugs she delivered to him, Laura has a nightmare in which Eugenio asks her to follow him. He calls her “Murderer” and offers her flowers from the Judas tree. She accepts them from his fleshless hand and eats them greedily. He calls her “Cannibal” for eating his body and blood. Laura cries “No.” She awakes and is afraid to sleep again.

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