Explain how author uses regionalism in "The Ransom of Red Chief?"

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dymatsuoka | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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Regionalism in literature is work that focuses on the distinct characteristics of a particular geographic area. It is also called local color. In "The Ransom of Red Chief," the author uses the attributes of the sleepy little town of Summit, Alabama, to advance the course of the narrative.

Sam and Bill, two small-time outlaws, choose Summit as the site of their kidnapping scheme because it contains "inhabitants of as undeleterious and self-satisfied a class of peasantry as ever clustered around a Maypole." They estimate that "philoprogenitiveness," or attachment to one's children, should be especially strong in a semi-rural community such as Summit, and also figure that their plot would do better in a town which would not be able to fight back with much more than "constables and maybe some lackadaisical bloodhounds and a diatribe or two in the Weekly Farmers' Budget."

Sadly for Sam and Bill, Summit is more laid-back than even they can imagine. When Sam climbs a nearby mountain to judge the reaction to their dastardly deed, he is surprised to see nothing more than "a sylvan attitude of somnolent sleepiness pervading that section of the external outward surface of Alabama that lay exposed to (his) view." The men's underestimation of the area's characteristics is further emphasized when the response to their ransom demand comes, not as a result of the comparatively sophisticated "counterplots" that they expect, but at the hands of "a half-grown boy (who) rides up the road on a bicycle," leaves behind a single sheet of paper, and pedals away.

The final insult resulting as a consequence of the two would-be criminals' misjudgement of the character of the area occurs when the father of the boy they kidnapped nonchalantly suggests that instead of him paying the money demanded, they should pay him, the father, to take the boy off their hands. Rather than being frantic for the safety of his child, he is calculatingly practical in his response, unsentimentally understanding the nature of his son. After all that has transpired, Sam and Bill are only too happy to fork over two-hundred and fifty dollars so that the father will take back the horrid little rascal!

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