The two main characters of Katherine Anne Porter's "Flowering Judas," Laura and Braggioni, attempt to fulfill an ideal: they want to have self-fulfillment but also to be integrated into a social society. Neither of the two, however, succeeds in meeting this ideal. While Braggioni appears to be a man who is self-fulfilled, he is not completely accepted or integrated into society. Laura, on the other hand, is Braggioni's opposite. Although she is completely embraced by the society in which she lives, she personally feels alienated from it and unfulfilled as an individual. In their incomplete and dysfunctional personalities, Braggioni and Laura are seen as embodiments of two psychic forces: the id and the superigo.
Braggioni, as the embodiment of the id, is concerned primarily with pleasure. Even just a physical description shows his extravagant self-indulgence. His "expensive garments" consist of a "lavender collar," a "purple necktie, held by a diamond hoop," a leather belt "worked in silver, [. . .] glassy yellow shoes [. . . and] mauve silk hose" (374). Braggioni's extravagant clothing projects how he "loves himself with such tenderness and amplitude and eternal charity" (372). Material possessions both confirm and enhance Braggioni's self-fulfillment and self-worth. Being a vain man, he demands the best for himself; gratifying himself gives him pleasure.
Braggioni's "love of small luxuries" is not the only source of his pleasure (374). He also takes pleasure in being a controlling force. He tells Laura that he "is rich, not in money [. . .] but in power" (374). Men come to him when they are in trouble, and Braggioni takes pleasure in deciding if he will help them or...
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...As a result, Laura is consuming herself. In her superego-dominated psyche even her suppressed desire for emotional pleasure and self-fulfillment can only find expression as a form of self-destruction.
This image in her dream of self-destruction causes Laura to cry "No!" once again. She will not allow herself to fall victim to self-fulfillment, just as Braggioni will not give up his pleasure. Consequently, they both remain characters who are imbalanced in their motivations and drives, thus making them dysfunctional. Until they can negotiate a compromise and partnership of the pleasure principle and the morality principle, Laura and Braggioni will fail to be healthy, fulfilled human beings.
Porter, Katherine Anne. "Flowering Judas." 1930. Short Story Masterpieces. Ed. Robert Penn Warren and Albert Erskine. New York: Dell, 1958. 371-85.
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