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

"The Ransom of Red Chief" contains a great deal of irony, from the verbal irony of a completely flat town being called "Summit" to the supreme situational irony of the kidnappers paying old Dorset to take his son back after kidnapping him has proved to be an ordeal for the kidnappers and an enjoyable adventure for the victim.

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Irony in the broadest sense is the reversal of expectation. O'Henry was famous for his use of irony, and the comic irony in "The Ransom of Red Chief" does not disappoint.

The story turns on irony. When the protagonists Bill and Sam kidnap Johnny, the son of the wealthy Mr. Dorset, they think getting the ransom will be easy money. They look down on the sleepy town where the Dorsets live as backward, and they think Johnny will be no problem to handle.

The irony is that little Johnny turns the tables and ends up terrorizing Bill and Sam. He attacks them with a brick and a hot potato and threatens a scalping. Playing the role of the Indian Red Chief, he acts as the kidnapper and ties up Bill. Instead of being frightened at being kidnapped and held in a cave, Johnny finds it all a thrilling adventure.

Bill and Sam are quickly reduced by Red Chief to exhaustion and terror. Their goal becomes getting rid of Red Chief rather than getting a ransom. In an ironic reversal at the end, the twosome pays Mr. Dorset to take their son off their hands. They find out, ironically enough, that the town of Summit is filled with wily characters and that taking care of a lively child is no piece of cake.

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“The Ransom of Red Chief" is rich in irony. It begins with the verbal irony of the narrator, a small-time criminal who thinks nothing of kidnapping a child, presenting himself in eloquent and grandiloquent terms with the erudite expressions he uses. Even the name of the town the kidnappers select is ironic, since it is “flat as a flannel-cake” but called Summit.

The supposedly innocent boy they select for the kidnapping is first encountered throwing rocks at a kitten and fights the men “like a welter-weight cinnamon bear.” The story now enters the realms of situational irony, which is particularly abundant. The principal examples are as follows. First, the boy enjoys being kidnapped, and as he relishes the situation more and more, his kidnappers grow less and less comfortable. Second, having been kidnapped, he does not want to go home, since he is having more fun where he is. Third, when violence breaks out, it is the boy who assaults one of the kidnappers, and he continues to hurt and play tricks on them throughout his nominal captivity. Fourth, in the most brilliant irony of all, old Ebenezer Dorset demands a ransom from the kidnappers to take his son back. Finally, the story ends with the kidnappers fleeing as their ostensible victim tries to pursue them.

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"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.

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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.

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