List the irony in "The Ransom of Red Chief".

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sciftw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"The Ransom of Red Chief" is a wonderful story that is filled with irony. The irony that is central to the story is situational irony. This occurs when something happens that isn't the expected outcome. I would say that there are two central examples of this kind of irony in the story. The first is that the kidnapping victim little Johnny Dorset isn't the terrified for his life like the readers and the kidnappers expected. Instead, Johnny thinks the kidnapping is one big, fun adventure. He then proceeds to make life miserable for the two kidnappers. They are not exactly the hardened criminals that a kidnapping story generally presents. The other big bit of situational irony is that Johnny's dad isn't exactly worried about his son. He's unwilling to pay any kind of ransom. In fact, he gets the kidnappers to pay him to take back his own son.

There is a bit of verbal irony going on with the title. Johnny plays a game with the kidnappers, and Johnny calls himself "Red Chief." The title makes readers think that Red Chief is the captive and the ransom is meant to free him. Instead, the title actually refers to the fact that Red Chief is holding the two men for ransom. Granted, Johnny isn't asking for money; however, the kidnappers do end up paying a ransom to be free of Red Chief.

gbeatty eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The irony in "The Ransom of Red Chief" runs throughout the story. The most extreme example of it comes with the core incident: the reversal of the kidnapping. In a classic straightforward kidnapping, the criminals take a person. They have the power, and the kidnapped person becomes the victim, and lives at their mercy. They get money for returning the victim safely. By contrast, in this story the kidnappers end up at the mercy of the little boy, and the letter asks them to pay in order to give the boy back: " You bring Johnny home and pay me two hundred and fifty dollars in cash, and I agree to take him off your hands." The entire situation is reversed and the criminals end up running away. That's pretty ironic.