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

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Judging from how Red Chief behaves, what sort of person do you think he will grow up to be?

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Philip Arrington eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The classic short story "The Ransom of Red Chief" by O. Henry tells of two men who kidnap the son of a rich man in Alabama, hoping to get a large enough ransom to pay for further crime schemes. Unfortunately for them, they get more than they bargain for. The ten-year-old is hyperactive, intolerably bratty, endlessly talkative, and dangerously violent. The boy decides he likes it better in the cave with the kidnappers than back at home with his strict father, and the criminals eventually have to pay the boy's father to take him back.

As for what sort of person the boy will grow up to be, there's no definitive answer to that; it's up to each reader's interpretation. However, we have some clues we can use to help us find out. The boy is self-centered, willful, disobedient, and has no concern for the effects of his decisions on others. His father obviously knows that his son is nearly uncontrollable or he would not have had the confidence to demand money from the kidnappers to take him back.

There are two ways to approach predicting the boy's possible future. It's possible that the father's strict discipline will have a positive effect and the boy will grow out of his rebellious, self-centered stage, becoming more mature and considerate of others. It's also possible that the boy will grow up to be a selfish, cruel adult, concerned only about ensuring his own gratification. When you are answering this question, take your own opinion into account and decide which of the two paths the boy would take and what you think he would do.

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mizzwillie eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In O'Henry's story, The Ransom of Red Chief, the main character behaves like a mischievious little boy, fooling the adults who look rather silly when trying to get him to do as they wish.  I predict  someone like this who doesn't follow rules, who does what he pleases, but doesn't really hurt someone in the process, will become a contributing adult to the society in which he lives.  To me, the main character is not malicious and doesn't try to destroy his captors, but plays games on them to get his way.  This reinforces my belief that he will become a responsible adult --just maybe one who likes to play jokes on people.

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