There are many theories on the significance of dreams and there is no definitive encyclopedia on their meanings. The ability to have one dream that is so bizarre and fantasy like and the next seem so real that it is hard to tell if it really happened or not, is quite amazing. One theory is that dreams reflect not only daily events and stresses, but also deep hidden fears and desires. It is the way the psyche copes and releases intense emotions, especially the ones most deeply repressed and denied. Katherine Anne Porter relates this phenomenon superbly in ?Flowering Judas.? Her complicated writing style mimics the way the main character, Laura, utilizes daily defense mechanisms to avoid having any personal connection with anybody, including herself Porter clearly feels that this type of severe emotional suppression is unhealthy and detrimental to ones emotional state. It only furthers alienation from society, the opposite sex and self, all of which go against the nature of humans being social and emotional creatures. This unhealthy psychological repression must have some outlet, which comes inevitably in the enigmatic dream sequence.
Porter shows that practicing self-detachment leads to insecurity and lack of purpose outside of maintaining this position. The constant struggle to suppress internal rage and personal opinions is away to maintain safety. The exposure of real feelings makes one vulnerable and because of this Laura keeps everything inside. She subconsciously dresses in heavy nun-like clothes to help hide and keep contained her real feelings and opinions. She also has a pervading sense of danger and disaster on a daily basis and no sense of direction in her life. The suffocation of feelings is so complete that she has no idea of what exactly she is feeling or why she is there. The only comfort she has is her ability to maintain her walls and feel safe. Her comfort is in knowing she is safe because her inner thoughts and feelings are unexposed.
Porter demonstrates that the severity of the preoccupation to avoid societal attachments is a very lonely and difficult path that only adds to further internal turmoil. The desire to remain emotionally isolated while having a very active role in the community is extremely contradictory, especially in the tumultuous surroundings the character chooses to live. She is a teacher, a political contact to many people and makes daily visits to political prisoners. Yet, she feels uncomfortable in the world around her, like a warped puzzle piece. There is no personal attachment or even commradery with who she is in contact, not on her part anyway. There is no talk of home or family and she has no desire to go anywhere else. She wants to remain isolated in her daily encounters with society because it is the only familiarity that she has with life, her loneliness and separateness among the masses. This allows her to continue fortifying her internal walls and defenses and this is how she is accustomed to maintaining her safety in isolation.
Porter reveals that the supreme denial of the opposite sex strongly goes against natural human instincts and leads to much deep-rooted turmoil and alienation. This driving force behind Laura?s desire to be alone stems from her primary instinct to avoid any type of personal contact with men physically or mentally. The thought of being on the same mental meeting ground with a man, let alone having any sort of physical contact causes her severe mental distress and physical pain. A torturous death is more appealing then to allow this type of connection to occur. Even though she feels this way, she subjects herself to male company more than to any other type. The dutiful pleasantness outwardly presented to male company is a complete contradiction with the internal struggle to contain intense rage and fear of men. The male issues are exposed in the dream when for the first time Laura?s true emotions are revealed and a satiating experience is had between her and a symbolic male. This dream, of course, is a nightmare for her. She wakes screaming and does not want to go back to sleep for fear that all she strives to maintain in her stance against men will dissipate in the dream state, which she cannot control.
In dreams there is freedom from daily restraints. Emotions are able to flow free and are a key to dealing with personal issues. ?Flowering Judas? shows that severely psychologically repressed people are able to release their hidden emotions in dreams but once awake, they remember the dream as a nightmare. This extreme emotional suppression is a very sad and lonely state to have for there is no freedom or pleasure at any moment in life, which goes against the natural laws of human coexistence.
catherine ann porter “flowering judas”