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

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How do Bill and Sam sign the ransom letter? Could this signature be taken two ways? How?  

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The ransom letter is signed "Two Desperate Men." The apparent intent is to suggest that these kidnappers are capable of doing anything if the boy's father does not meet their demands. The word "desperate" is intended to suggest that they know themselves to be outside the law. They are already destined to be executed or gunned down for the terrible crimes they have committed in the past. But the signature might also suggest that they are in dire need of the money. If they don't get it from Ebenezer Dorset, they won't know where to turn next. Mr. Dorset might read his own interpretation into the signature. He might not be in the least intimidated by their broad hint that they are capable of killing his son. He knows, for one thing, that they are in more danger from Johnny (aka Red Chief) than the boy is from them. Mr. Dorset, knowing his boy so well, might understand that these two men are getting "desperate" because they have a tiger by the tail, so to speak. Bill...

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