In "The Ransom of Red Chief," how many examples of contrast between expectation and outcome can you find?Please cite examples of this incongruity of events.

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Certainly an incongruity exists between what the men expect to happen in Summit, Alabama, and what actually occurs.  Thinking themselves too sophisticated for the "yeomen" of such a place, Sam and Bill assume their "kidnapping idea" an easy way to make quick money.

However, there are many surprises for the men. For instance, usually after the disappearance of a child in a small town, the citizens are unified in a searrch for this child.  However, after the freckled ten-year takes the men captive and ties Bill down and attempts to scalp him, "having the time of his life," the men wriggle free of him and look down upon the town;

Over toward Summit I expected to see the sturdy yeomanry of the village armed with scythes and pitchforks beating the countryside for the dastardl kidnappers.  But what I saw was a peaceful landscape dotted with one man ploughing with a dun mule.  Nobody was dragging the creek; no couriers dashed hither and yon...There was s ylvan attitude of somnolent sleepiness pervading that section...

When Sam asks Red Chief if he wants to go home, he unexpectedly replies,

'Aw, what for?...I don't have any fun at home.  I hate to go to school.  I like to camp out.  You won't take me back home agin, Snake-eye, will you?

When Sam assumes, "A rowdy kid like that is just the kind that parents dote on," he is proved wrong.  Mr. Dorset does not seem eager at all to recover his son.  And, when he does accept the boy, he tells Sam and Bill that he can only hold the boy for ten minutes while they flee.

Perhaps the funniest outcome to an expectation comes with Sam and Bill's thinking that they will easily collect $2,000.00, but end up paying Mr. Dorset $250.00 to take the boy off their hands.  And the irony of their having signed the ransom note with "Two Desperate Men" cannot be missed!

epollock | Student


Contrast and incongruity are some of the hallmarks of O. Henry.  While his stories may be lighthearted comedies, the stories expose some truth about the harshness and unexpectedness of life. This can be found in "The Ransom of Red Chief."

When the narrator first sees the kid, who is “throwing rocks at a kitten” (it’s a kitten, not a cat, which makes it even more horrible), and who responds to Bill’s question by hitting
him “neatly in the eye with a piece of brick," uniquely contrasts Red Chief's behavior with his expected behavior of innocence, naivete, and sensitivity.

The description of the town, which is somewhat confusing as to the correct definitions of a flannel-cake and a Maypole exhibits a contrast in not just individuality but for all people in the 

" down there, as flat as a flannel-cake, and called Summit, of course. It contained inhabitants of as undeleterious and self-satisfied a class of peasantry as ever clustered around a Maypole."

exhibits a kind of group contrast or incongruity between what they identify as their town in its name and its type of inhabitants as well. This is reminiscent of "Sleepy Hollow" in an incredibly bustling Jacksonian world of trade and commerce.

Even O. Henry’s notions about Native Americans are less striking than are his revelations about the unappealing group of white characters in the story.

In the third paragraph the narrator speaks of his and Bill’s “joint capital.” The two conspirators talk easily about their plan just as though it were a respectable business—as though, say, they were talking about how great a mark-up they should put on their product. Should they demand $2,000, or should they lower the price to $1,500 (paragraph 49)?

The boy’s father, in his letter, offers “a counter-proposition”: He will take the boy off their hands if they pay him $250. O. Henry suggests that our world of buying and selling is all part of one big con game, an incongruity with our capitalist society.

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The Ransom of Red Chief

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