The Ransom of Red Chief Questions and Answers
by O. Henry

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What are the comedic elements in "The Ransom of Red Chief"?

The most important comedic element in “The Ransom of Red Chief” comes from the role-reversal at the heart of the story. Sam and Bill, the two hapless kidnappers, are supposed to be the ones in control. Yet little Johnny turns the tables on them by acting like the spoiled brat he is. Further comedy is to be had when Johnny's father demands that Sam and Bill pay him to take his son off their hands.

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Much humor is generated in "The Ransom of Red Chief" from unexpected characterization.

One would expect two kidnappers to be characterized as vicious and heartless and for a young boy who is snatched from his family to be characterized as fearful and timid. Yet this isn't the way these characters are developed at all.

Nearly as soon as the kidnappers arrive at their destination where they will hold young Johnny, they begin playing games with him—specifically, a game where they pretend to be "Indians." Bill himself takes an especially active role in the game, seeming to enjoy the world of make-believe that Johnny develops. Yet later, Johnny gets the upper hand on Bill, who awakens to the very real possibility that he is about to be scalped by Johnny, otherwise known as Red Chief in their games of pretend. This kidnapper becomes fairly terrified of this wild child and can't sleep with him around.

Johnny himself puts up a good fight early on. When the kidnappers try to lure him in, Johnny...

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