The Ransom of Red Chief

by O. Henry
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Use details from the text to describe the kidnapped child who comes to be known as Red Chief—based both on stated character traits and on those you infer from details in the text.

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What you are essentially asking for are examples of both direct characterization—when we are told, directly, what qualities a character possesses—and indirect characterization —when we must infer the traits of the character from their speech and behavior. There is a great deal more indirect characterization of the child, Johnny,...

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What you are essentially asking for are examples of both direct characterization—when we are told, directly, what qualities a character possesses—and indirect characterization—when we must infer the traits of the character from their speech and behavior. There is a great deal more indirect characterization of the child, Johnny, than there is direct.

When Bill and Sam, the narrator, first see the boy—the son of Ebenezer Dorset, a prominent citizen and mortgage financier—Bill offers Johnny some candy, and the kid chucks a piece of brick at Bill, hitting him right in the eye. He also has been "throwing rocks at a kitten on the opposite fence." From these facts, we can deduce that the child is rather cruel (throwing rocks at a helpless animal) and rude (throwing rocks at a stranger).

The child goes on to ask a million questions on a million different topics, making himself rather irritating as well. He also actually tries to scalp Bill the next morning, showing that he seems not to really know the difference between pretend and reality. He is having fun and wants to stay with his kidnappers rather than return home, but he still attacks Bill repeatedly! He definitely does not seem to understand consequences perhaps because there typically are not any for him.

Later, when Bill and Sam are talking, Bill calls the child an "imp" (which means a small demon or a mischievous child—though it seems both fit here!) and Sam calls him "rowdy." Bill also calls the child a "'forty-pound chunk of freckled wildcat,'" suggesting that the boy is more animal than human!

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