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.
Voices from the Past in Stephen Crane’s The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky
Voices from the Past in The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky
Once upon a time there was the West, and the West was wild. Trails needed to be blazed, and Indians to be fought. To overcome such hardships and obstacles, men needed to be just as tough, rugged, and untamed as the landscape that they braved. In a time when American people needed heroes, those men who conquered the Western frontier became the objects of admiration and wonder. Furthermore, they set a standard of physical strength and violent self-reliance to be met by anyone who decided to settle in the West for it was a place of toughness, conflict, and courage. In Stephen Crane’s “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky,” Scratchy Wilson and Jack Potter seem to possess those qualities required of a “Western man.” Through their voices, the legend of the West emerges in Crane’s story. At the same time, though, their voices are only part of a discourse of voices in the story that eulogizes the death of the Old West and the coming of civilization. Even as it celebrates the Old West, Crane’s story ambivalently dramatizes its passing.
Included in the collection of voices in “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky” are those of the drummer and the bartender of the Weary Gentleman saloon. The town of Yellow Sky has, of course, a typical frontier saloon where the men gather to drink whiskey. The barkeeper’s dog lounges outside the front door, taking in the scene of a dusty little town whose name, Yellow Sky, even suggests that the town is a part of a natural landscape that is vast but beautiful. When shooting suddenly starts in the street, the reader discovers with the drummer how quickly a sleepy Old Western town can turn violent. Scratchy Wilson is responsible for the shooting, the barten…
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…d West desperado.
The last vestige of this desperado is the ritual that he participates in when he fights Potter in the street. In his confrontation with Potter and the bride, though, even that is taken away. The idea of marriage is so foreign to Scratchy that he decides “‘it’s all off now'” (122). More than one particular fight is off. Everything that was once traditional in Yellow Sky is also off. Civilization has tamed Scratchy Wilson and Jack Potter — the last men from the Old West.
With wry humor, then, Stephen Crane marks the passing of the Old West in “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky.” But one thing still remains and endures: the myth that Crane both mourns and celebrates.
Crane, Stephen. “The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky.” 1925. Short Story Masterpieces. Ed. Robert Penn Warren and Albert Erskine. New York: Laurel, 1982. 110-122.