How much irony is used in "The Ransom of Red Chief" by O. Henry?

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The story "The Ransom of Red Chief" is ironic, in that the outcome is the opposite of what the reader might expect. Two men kidnap the son of a prosperous man in Alabama and expect the father will be grief-stricken when he hears his son has been abducted and that, as a result, he will pay the kidnappers at least $2,000. From the beginning of their abduction of the boy, who calls himself Red Chief, everything goes contrary to the kidnappers' plans. First, the little boy proves to be far more fearsome than the kidnappers. For example, he tries to scalp one of them in his role as an Indian chief. This is ironic because the kidnappers are expected to be scarier than the boy. Second, the boy is not only unafraid of his abduction, he loves being kidnapped and finds the experience far more fun than being at home or school. Therefore, he has no inclination to go home—another form of irony. Finally, the father of the boy tells the kidnappers they have to pay him to convince him to take back the boy. Therefore, in the ultimate ironic twist, the kidnappers wind up paying the father to take the pesky boy back.

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The Ransom of Red Chief

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