Originally Posted by Xodus
As a prelude to the film's memorable, comic egg-eating contest scene, Dragline bets on his boy Luke: "He can eat busted bottles and rusty nails, any damned thing." Luke boldly wagers that he can eat fifty hard-boiled eggs in one hour. [The number 50 becomes significant - since there are 50 prisoners' souls and 50 eggs, Luke's ingesting of the eggs parallels Christ's taking upon himself the sins of the world and bringing about a rebirth. Eggs, the celebration of Easter, and the resurrection are symbolically tied together.] The men exuberantly bet against him, disbelieving that he can perform the miracle without throwing up: "Fifty eggs gotta weigh a good six pounds...A man's gut can't hold that. They'll swell up and bust him open....They're gonna kill him." Remarkably, Luke takes the challenge - it's raining and the activity will pass the time: "It be somethin' to do." After a period of preparatory training, stretching his stomach's skin to make room for the eggs ("What we gotta do is stretch that little ol' belly of yours. Get all this stuff out of the way. Them eggs are coming down!"), and eating speed tests, Luke is about ready. He sits on his top bunk with a towel draped over his head [another Christ image].
Dragline readies the crowd for the contest: "All right. Stand back you pedestrians, this ain't no automobile accident." As Luke's trainer, he peels the eggs before they are eaten, arguing that Luke doesn't have to peel his own eggs within the hour limit: "When it comes to the law, nothin' is understood...I'm his official egg-peeler. That's the law!" The big event begins with Luke's entrance, the removal of his shirt, and his kneeling down in front of the men who surround a table in front of him. One of the convicts observes how quickly Luke pops each egg in his mouth: "He's gonna lose a finger eatin' eggs like that." After 32 eggs, Luke's bloated stomach bows out: "Just like a ripe watermelon that's about to bust itself open." Some of the men bet against him as Luke anoints his forehead with water. Dragline, with Luke in cahoots with him, encourages everyone to wager everything against Luke: "I wanna hear from some big money men. Where's all the high rollers?" Society Red (J.D. Cannon) replies that everything has been bet: "I believe you've got it all, Dragline. Every cent in camp is riding."
As time is running out, and Luke approaches the elusive goal of 50 eggs, Dragline coaxes him on: "Just nine more between you and everlastin' glory...Just little ol' eggs. They pigeon eggs, that's all." The men mimic his chewing action. Up until the last second, it is uncertain whether he has swallowed the last egg. After his winning victory, Luke is laid out on a table strewn with egg shells. The men quickly forget about him and abandon him after using him for their own amusement. Luke is left alone - from an overhead shot, his arms are outstretched, his legs are crossed at the ankle, his eyes are closed, and his head is tilted toward the left - [a symbolic Christ-like crucifixion pose]. An enigmatic grin crosses his face.