In the first section of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, what happens to Ellis? What happens to Ruckly? What does the imagery suggest?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Chief says that Ellis has been affected by the electroshock therapy machine so that he stands at the wall in the same pose in which he was removed from the table. As Chief describes Ellis, "Now he’s nailed against the wall in the same condition they lifted him off the table for the last time, in the same shape, arms out, palms cupped, with the same horror on his face." The imagery suggests that Ellis is a Christ-like figure who has been sacrificed by the workers in the ward. Chief says of Ruckly, "they made a mistake in one of their head installations." Ruckly was very agitated before they brought him to the electroshock therapy; he was biting nurses and kicking the attendants. When he came back, Chief says that Ruckly was bald and had a bruised face and two plugs above his eyes. He says, "You can see by his eyes how they burned him out over there; his eyes are all smoked up and gray and deserted inside like blown fuses." The image reminds the reader of the popular image of Frankenstein's monster, as Chief thinks that Ruckly is now made of worn-out mechanical parts. Chief says that all Ruckly does is hold a gray photograph in front of his face. 


hilahmarca eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Ellis and Ruckly are two characters that don't conform to the Nurse's rules.  They are seen as troublemakers on the ward, so the Nurse hangs them to the wall for their transgressions to make an example out of them.  There they are left for weeks on end.  They urinate below to the extent that the floor gives way and falls through to the lower floor.  The imagery present in these characters is the way they are positioned on the walls with their hands out is reminiscent of the crucifix position.  Therefore, Kesey is pointing out how Ellis and Ruckley are Christ-like characters martyred by the Big Nurse.  It paves the way for "the next coming" to enter the ward - Randall McMurphy.

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One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

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