How did the little boy respond at first to being kidnapped in "The Ransom of Red Chief" by O. Henry? 

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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"The Ransom of Red Chief" by O. Henry is an ironic story, which means that we should expect the unexpected. The story is set in the city of Summit, a quiet little town which is peace-loving and perfect for a kidnapping, according to Sam and Bill. When the two men make their plans, they decide that nine-year-old Johnny Dorset is the most likely victim because his father is rich and can pay the ransom.

When the men try to kidnap the boy, things begin to go wrong. They should have paid a little more attention, for as they pull up to try to lure the boy into their carriage, they see this:

The kid was in the street, throwing rocks at a kitten on the opposite fence.

This is not his response to their kidnapping him, of course, but it is not as auspicious beginning for their first encounter with Johnny and should have given them a clue to the boy's temperament and character. When Bill asks the boy if he would like to come for a ride and have a bag of candy, Johnny does not answer but "catches Bill neatly in the eye with a piece of brick."

Sam recounts the rest of the incident:

That boy put up a fight like a welter-weight cinnamon bear; but, at last, we got him down in the bottom of the buggy and drove away.

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. Johnny now calls himself Red Chief and Bill is his captive. It turns out that the boy likes to camp and, now that he is in control, is quite enjoying this entire experience. Bill is not so enthusiastic, of course. Sam says it this way:

Yes, sir, that boy seemed to be having the time of his life. The fun of camping out in a cave had made him forget that he was a captive, himself.

In short, nothing about this kidnapping has been easy, and now two grown men find themselves at the mercy of a nine-year-old boy playing make believe games. 

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