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

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stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are several different types of comedic elements included within the story "The Ransom of Red Chief," with multiple examples of each type of humor.

The speech pattern of Sam, the narrator of the story, includes expressions and descriptive phrases that employ tongue-in-cheek ironic humor. The name of the town where the original kidnapping was committed was Summit (usually meaning the top of a mountain or hill), but the place was described as being "as flat as a flannel-cake."

The speech of the boy includes all the energy and enthusiasm and ridiculous jumps in subject matter that can be imagined.

I hate to go to school. Rats ate up sixteen of Jimmy Talbot's aunt's speckled hen's eggs. Are there any real Indians in these woods? I want some more gravy. Does the trees moving make the wind blow? We had five puppies. What makes your nose so red, Hank? My father has lots of money. Are the stars hot?

The kinds of situations that arise as the bandits attempt to control their captive are full of comically ironic role-reversals, as the adults quickly discover they have no chance of containing the run-away imagination and uninhibited enthusiasm of this boy for the high adventure of acting out his fantasies as Red Chief, and later as the Black Scout. Bill, in particular, suffers greatly at the hands of Red Chief and evolves from being a willing participant in the kidnapping to sending the boy back home, reducing the amount of ransom being demanded, and finally advocating they concede and pay Ebenezer Dorset to reclaim the boy.

Sam," says he, "what's two hundred and fifty dollars, after all?...Besides being a thorough gentleman, I think Mr. Dorset is a spendthrift for making us such a liberal offer. You ain't going to let the chance go, are you?