The Ransom of Red Chief

by O. Henry

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In "The Ransom of Red Chief," what were some unexpected circumstances that influenced Bill and Sam's plan to get money?

The outlaws, who thought the kidnapped boy's father would panic and pay up, didn't know him very well. They did not expect that he would take his son back only if paid. And they did not expect the boy to be so happy in the cave that he wouldn't want to leave.

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Although Sam and Bill should have seen the warning signs in their attempted money-making scheme, they didn't, and so several circumstances they didn't expect interfered with their plan. First, although they chose a wealthy man, they also chose one who was stingy and not sentimental. The fact that Ebenezer Dorset, the kidnapped boy's father, was a "forecloser" meant that he wasn't sentimental. He was willing to hold people to their contracts without giving in. And he was "tight." Bill and Sam expected the parents to panic and immediately pay to get their child back, but the boy's father's personality was atypical for parents, who Bill and Sam thought would display "philoprogenitiveness." In addition, the outlaws didn't expect the child himself to be happy to be kidnapped and to be such a terror. Johnny has the time of his life living in the cave, and he has free rein to heap physical and mental abuse upon Bill. This makes the child unmanageable and makes the men's lives miserable--especially Bill's. They certainly didn't expect the child's father to demand payment to take his child back, and if they hadn't spent a couple of days with Red Chief, they would not have believed they could have given in to such a demand. The unexpected behavior of Red Chief and his father not only foiled the outlaws' money-making scheme but actually ended up costing them money, making their whole effort a losing proposition.

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