In a story noted for its symbolism, the major symbolic patterns involve sex and religion. The sexual emphasis is used primarily to show how Laura is victimized by Braggioni. Under his domination, she yields to a fatalistic view of life in which events are beyond her control. The religious symbolism reveals the self-betrayal of this surrender.
Braggioni represents the potential of sexual violation. His fat body, encased in expensive clothes, calls attention to the power he has over Laura. As he strokes the guitar and the pistol and sings his love songs, his amorous intentions are made clear to Laura. His name, resembling “braggadocio,” further suggests his boasting, macho behavior. Laura’s aloofness and her attempt to hide her body in heavy material merely add to the challenge that she represents to the rebel leader. His great bulk threatens her physically just as his corruption destroys her romantic illusions. In resisting him physically, however, she yields to him intellectually and morally.
The title of the story suggests its religious symbolism. Judas, the betrayer, supposedly hanged himself from a redbud tree. In Laura’s dream, Eugenio offers the flowers of the Judas tree, which she readily devours. The dream indicates the guilt she feels as a result of her amoral activity. The guilt, suppressed during her conscious hours, comes forth in a parody of religious ritual, much like the washing of Braggioni’s feet by his wife. Laura’s dream thus embodies the story’s themes in a highly charged symbolic language.