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The Motif of Loss of Faith in Katherine Anne Porter’s “Flowering Judas”: An Analysis

Apr 20, 2023 | 0 comments

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Apr 20, 2023 | Essays | 0 comments

a. Select six quotes from “Flowering Judas” (from the beginning, middle, and end) you feel fit together in a repeated pattern in the story.

  1. “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
  2. “This is my body and my blood.”
  3. “Why doesn’t he do something?”
  4. “They are stupid, they are lazy, they are treacherous, and they would cut my throat for nothing.”
  5. “The malice, the cleverness, the wickedness, the sharpness of wit, the hardness of heart, stipulated for loving the world profitably.”
  6. “One woman is really as good as another for me, in the dark. I prefer them all.”

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b. Explain what pattern (motif) they create.

 These quotes create the motif of “loss of faith.”

c. Explain how they create the pattern.

“Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Bragging who is a hero who fought for wealth redistribution to the people indulge only in power and luxury when he became part of the new elites ruling. The revolutionary Braggioni was leading dedicated themselves to improving many things amongst the common people, but himself he is girded with considerable political power and rules like a king. He dresses and eats well and arrogates himself with the material benefits of the poor people he opposes (Porter & Carr, 1993).

“This is my body and my blood.”

Laura has been raised in the catholic tradition, she is subscribed to the revolutionary ideals which reject her religion especially of the Catholic Church. In her dreams, she dreams of Eugenio, a prisoner who overdosed himself with drugs Laura sent him in prisons. In the dreams, Eugenio promises to take her to the new land of death, and outside he takes the flowers from the tree of Judas and tells her to eat. After Laura has consumed them, he calls her a cannibal and a murderer, “This is my blood and my body.” This shows how Laura has lost faith in her religious ideals and supplied drugs that Eugenio used in killing himself (Porter & Carr, 1993).

“Why doesn’t he do something?”

Laura sometimes visits prisoners and take to them messages, food and cigarettes, and drugs from outside. The prisoners ask why Braggioni does not do anything, implying that they have lost faith in Braggioni helping them to get freedom.

“They are stupid, they are lazy, they are treacherous, and they would cut my throat for nothing.”

That is a quote Braggioni tells Laura. He is a leader of men who whisper secrets to him, give them money, encourages them, and tells them to join unions, attend meetings, and promise them jobs and to take part in demonstrations. In contrast, he tells Laura that the same men are lazy, treacherous, and can cutthroats which indicates he has lost faith and trust in the men as their leader and they can betray him (Porter & Carr, 1993).

“The malice, the cleverness, the wickedness, the sharpness of wit, the hardness of heart, stipulated for loving the world profitably.”

This was a quote to show the required qualities Braggioni has acquired by shaping himself as a revolutionary. As much as he fought for equal distribution of wealth, he currently loves the world profitably and benefitted himself, making his men lose faith in him since he has betrayed them (Porter & Carr, 1993).

“A thousand women have paid for that … One woman is really as good as another for me, in the dark. I prefer them all.”

This was a statement Braggioni told Laura where at the age of 15 years, he tried committing suicide after a gird rejected him, and for that, he has been promiscuous. By expressing his love for humanity by womanizing, he betrayed his wife who was fanatically devoted to him and this shows he has lost faith in his wife as a woman (Porter & Carr, 1993).

d. Finally, what theme (message) do these patterns create?

The theme of betrayal is created from this pattern

Cather and Porter

The protagonist, Harvey Merrick who was a sculptor and now dead has been alienated by his community as seen from the events rendered from the point of view of Steavens, who was a young apprentice of Harvey Merrick. Stevens and Laird, a friend of Merrick discuss the harsh upbringing of Merrick (Cather, 2015). Steavens does not see some kinship between Merrick and his mother because she is violent, has fierce passion and she wielded power over everyone around her. Moreover, there is cheap vulgarity of taste everywhere which shows no connection between the place and Merrick. The town leading citizens even made fun of Merrick’s education and his eastern lifestyle before the funeral (Cather, 2015).

On the other hand, in “Flowering Judas,” Laura also feels alienated because she is an American who resides in Mexico, away from her home. Similarly, she is alienated from her catholic church but also fails to embrace religion as an essential part of her life. Compared to Merrick in Cather’s “The Sculptor s Funeral,” it can be seen that Merrick was alienated by his whole community but Laura self-alienated herself from the church and lives in Mexico voluntarily where she serves the students and the revolutionists (Porter & Carr, 1993).

The Novel Demueble

Creativity means to have both the power of observation and description and create a novel that is a form of imaginative art and not any other form of brilliant and vivid journalism. An example from “The Novel Démeublé” provided by Cather is that in a novel, one must be whether he is talking about a noel as an amusement or an art form because they serve different purposes in various ways. From “The Sculptor’s Funeral” the example coming out as creativity is the narration of the happenings of the funerals through the thoughts of Steavens. The reader gets to understand the happenings without being there from the words and observations of Steavens (Cather, 2015).

The Wasteland and Flowering Judas

In the poem of the “Wasteland,” section three of the “Fire Sermon,” in the end, someone is overheard singing a popular song, which to the poem it is sounding depressing.

“This music crept by me upon the waters”  
And along the Strand, up Queen Victoria Street.  
O City city, I can sometimes hear  
Beside a public bar in Lower Thames Street,  260
The pleasant whining of a mandoline  
And a clatter and a chatter from within  
Where fishmen lounge at noon: where the walls  
Of Magnus Martyr hold  
Inexplicable splendor of Ionian white and gold ( Eliot, 2015).  

The stanza is similar to a part in Flowering Judas where Braggioni sings a song to Laura. Bragging sings robustly about loneliness and how he is disappointed with life and also says that Laura will be disappointed with life too. These two passages of music show similarity as both singers are depressed and pessimistic (Porter & Carr, 1993).

Point Of View in Barn Burning

This story is told from the point of view of a 10-year-old boy, Sarty. The character of Sarty from the story is that of betrayer since he betrayed his father honorably at the very of the story. The third-person point of view is limited, which implies that even though it is written in the third person, the entire narrative is only focused on one character. The reader sees everything from the point of view of Sarty where the reader gets to see his motives, thoughts, and feelings and get the drama of the story as it unfolds from his perspective. The story would have been different from another person’s point of view because the thoughts, motives, and feelings of the characters in the story are different, and this could gave brought the story from a different angle (Faulkner, 1979).

Mythology in Barn Burning

Some of the mythological elements and characters in this story include the recurring themes and symbols, Edmond Volpe, fire as a tool for the devil, Abner as Lucifer. Moreover, other mythological elements include the moral obligation versus blood loyalty on the part of Sarty. He develops individual morals but questions blind loyalty (Faulkner, 1979).

Symbolism in “Snows”

The snow was a symbol in the story which represented Harry’s impending death. Similarly, snow was a symbol of Harry’s failures in the past. In the very first vision of Harry I the train where he was thinking about the things he has been saving to write and looking out of the window and saw the snow on top of the mountains. It was the snow that they tramped over until they finally died in winter. The story also details how Harry could not bring himself to writing about his past experiences, which has made him be the person he desires to escape from (Brimhall, 2015). Lastly, the symbol of snow also shows the hurdle blocking him from reaching his salvation. The snow was hurting his eyes because they were bright and this shows how the snow restricted him from what he was striving to write and therefore must be conquered (Brimhall, 2015).

Hemingway and Existentialism

The hero of Hemingway is a restless man and does not like the night and therefore will stay awake at night and sleep during the day. The night’s darkness represents nothingness, or the state in which things will be when a person shall have died, absolute oblivion. Sleep and darkness must be avoided for they are a state of nothingness, “Nada.” The discourse of Nada according to Hemingway is a way of exploring the darker side of spiritual life. The idea of “Nada” in “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place,” causes the older waiter to think about committing suicide, to question whether or not the old man’s example is one he should follow. Finally, he does not follow the example of the old man and therefore feels the need of making excuses for his cowardice (Hemingway, 2015).

In “Snow,” Nada’s philosophy is seen when Harry lies in his cot and is aware of the hyena lurking in the shadows and vultures walking around his camp. He knows that he will die before waking up and goes to sleep.

Babylon Revisited

This poem by Lord Byron perfectly connects to “Babylon Revisited” by Fitzergal. Charlie Wales has returned to Paris a changed and sober man away from his former partying lifestyle. Charlie wants to take custody of his daughter, Honoria who lives with his sister-in-law, Marion Peters, and her husband. However, Charlie is in a bad relationship with his sister in law who blames him for the death of Helen, her sister, and the wife of Charlie. She is resistant to him taking Honoria since she knew he was still an alcoholic but with the insistence that he is reformed and patience, he eventually wins her (Fitzgerald, 2011). The story relates to the poem as seen in the lines of the stanza. The change came to him and the keepers of her daughter grew compassionate. They were used to the sight of him being alcoholic and because he unfastened the chains of alcoholism he liberated himself.


Brimhall, J. (2015). The use of symbolism in Hemingway’s “The Snows of Kilimanjaro.” Retrieved 17 May 2015, from http://jcbrimhall.tripod.com/hemingway.html

Cather, W. (2015). WCA: “The Novel Démeublé”. Cather.unl.edu. Retrieved 16 May 2015, from http://cather.unl.edu/nf012.html

Cather, W. (2015). WCA: “The Sculptor’s Funeral”. Cather.unl.edu. Retrieved 16 May 2015, from http://cather.unl.edu/ss008.html

Eliot, T. (2015). The Waste Land. Bartleby.com. Retrieved 17 May 2015, from http://www.bartleby.com/201/1.html

Faulkner, W. (1979). Barn burning. Logan, Iowa: Perfection Form.

Fitzgerald, F. (2011). Babylon revisited. London: Penguin.

Hemingway, E. (2015). Ernest Hemingway FAQ: Themes. Timelesshemingway.com. Retrieved 17 May 2015, from http://www.timelesshemingway.com/content/themesfaq

Porter, K., & Carr, V. (1993). Flowering Judas. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press.

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