The Ransom of Red Chief Questions and Answers
by O. Henry

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Do you think the boy was happy in the cave? How can you tell?

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In O. Henry's classic short story "The Ransom of Red Chief," Sam and Bill kidnap the son of a wealthy mortgage fancier named Johnny Dorset, who turns out to be a ten-year-old terror. Initially, Sam and Bill need two thousand dollars to pull off a fraudulent town-lot scheme in Western Illinois, and plan to hold Johnny Dorset hostage until his father pays the ransom. Ironically, the kidnappers find themselves in a difficult position once Johnny assumes power and begins torturing them. One evening after sundown, Sam and Bill travel into the small town of Summit, where they proceed to kidnap Johnny and take him to their nearby hideout in a cave.

Once Johnny Dorset arrives at the hideout, he begins playing Indian and names himself Red Chief. Johnny pretends to hold Bill captive and calls him Old Hank, the Trapper, who will be scalped at daylight. Johnny also gives Sam the name Snake-Eye and declares that he will be broiled at the stake at sunrise. Johnny Dorset is evidently having a great time in the cave and seems to be controlling the entire situation. Sam even mentions,

"Yes, sir, that boy seemed to be having the time of his life" (O. Henry, 3).

Johnny does not realize that he is a hostage and believes that he is simply camping out with Sam and Bill. As the kidnappers wait for Johnny's father to pay the ransom, Johnny continues to enjoy his time in the cave pretending to be Red Chief and torturing Bill. Eventually, the kidnappers are forced to pay Johnny's father to take him home and must run away from the enthusiastic, intimidating boy at the end of the story.

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