Ransom of the Red Chief by O.Henry

Sam and Bill were two friends who resided in a remote part of Alabama. They had amassed a total of $600. They required only $2,000 to purchase some land. They intended to abduct Mr Ebenezer Dorset’s ten-year-old son in Summit, a tiny town. They identified a well-known cave nearby and stocked it with sufficient food. They loaded the boy into a cart and drove away one evening, shortly after dark. The boy fought valiantly and even struck Bill in the eyes with a chunk of brick. As they neared the cave, the boy developed an affinity for those men and their way of life in the cave. He pretended to be Red Chief and coined the moniker Sam Snake-eye for himself. He armed himself with a stick that doubled as a rifle. He quickly became out of control.

Ransom of the Red Chief Summary

He threatened to smash Bill with a rock half the size of a coconut, then smashed a red-hot baked potato on his back with his foot. Bill’s head would be scalped, he threatened. While Bill was playing with his sling, an egg-sized rock became lodged behind his left ear, causing him to lose his balance and fall onto the fire, where he was burned. He rode on Bill’s back for ninety miles, simulating horseback riding, and booted Bill black and blue along the way. Additionally, he stated that Sam would be tied to a pole and set on fire. He forbade Bill and Sam from sleeping for an entire night. Bill and Sam were compelled to keep a careful eye on his actions as a result of all of these factors.

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Sam travelled to a nearby town and discovered that word of the boy’s disappearance had spread. He returned to discover Bill in a state of despair, even fear. They both wrote a letter to the boy’s father requesting a fifteen hundred dollar ransom. Initially, they intended to seek two thousand dollars from him, but the amount was cut to this amount at Bill’s request. Mr Dorset was instructed in the letter to dispatch a messenger to a certain location in Poplar Cove with a response to their demand. It warned him that if the money was not paid, he would never see his son again.

A messenger carrying a note arrived at the designated hour in the night. Sam picked it up and discovered it contained odd contents. Rather than paying the kidnappers the stipulated sum, Mr Dorset wanted two hundred and fifty dollars in exchange for returning the boy. Bill argued that the amount asked was trivial in comparison to their ordeal at the hands of the boy. They took the boy home at night, paid Mr Dorset the money, and fled. Sam found it extremely difficult to accompany Bill because Bill was fleeing from the boy at a breakneck pace, gripped with panic.

Questions and Answers

Q. What is ironic about calling the town Summit?
Ans. It is ironic to call the town Summit because it means the highest point or top of a mountain. The town is as “flat as a flannel cake.”

Q. Why did the men choose Summit for kidnapping?
Ans. Bill and Sam think that in Summit parents love their children more than in other places and there were not enough policemen.

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Q. What is ironic or unexpected about The Ransom of Red Chief?
Ans. The Ransom of Red Chief by O. Henry is filled with irony as a plan to kidnap and boy and hold him for ransom goes terribly wrong. This occurs when instead of getting a ransom for Red Chief, Bill and Sam end up paying the boy’s father for taking him back.

Q. What is the significance of the games played by Johny in the story The Ransom of Red Chief?

Ans. Johnny inevitably plays the main role and Bill usually plays the role that takes the most abuse. Johnny calls himself Red Chief. The ongoing game he plays with Bill is Cowboys and Indians. When they first kidnap Red Chief, Bill plays the role of Old Hank, the Trapper.

Q. How much money did Bill and Sam finally ask for?
Ans. They ask for $1,500 to return the kid.

Q. What did the kid call his kidnappers and what punishment did he announce for each of them as the head of the Red Indians?
Ans. Once the kidnappers drag Johnny into the cave, the boy demands to play Indian and christens himself Red Chief. When Sam returns to the cave, Johnny is in full character and immediately names him Snake-Eye, the Spy. Red Chief informs Snake-Eye that he will be broiled at the stake at the rising of the sun.

Q. Why do Bill and Sam run out of town?

Ans. They are trying to escape Red Chief before he gets loose from his father. The townspeople run them off. They have better prospects in the next town over.

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Q. How did Johnny respond at first to being kidnapped How did he react later?
Ans.  When the men try to kidnap the boy, things begin to go wrong. This is the initial response Johnny has to the kidnapping. Once they get to the men’s camp, things get even worse, at least for Bill. Johnny bruises and scratches Bill and the roles have reversed.

Q. How does Red Chief feel about being kidnapped?
Ans. He thinks it’s like a camping trip. He enjoys it because he gets to do things he can’t do at home. Red Chief is really in charge because the kidnappers are both afraid of what he may do next.

Q. How did the kidnappers finally get rid of the boy?
Ans. Bill and Sam finally get rid of Red Chief by paying his father to take them off their hands. This is ironic, to say the least, as the two hapless kidnappers had hoped that little Johnny’s father would pay them a ransom for returning their son.

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