Anyone who has ever been around a mischievous or hard-to-discipline child can appreciate the irony in this story. The two bumbling kidnappers, Bill Driscoll and the narrator, are going to try to get $2000 in ransom for a fraud scheme up in Illinois. They select the son of a well-to-do mortgage broker, who they expect will pay every dime of the $2000 that they need. Their first hint that this might not go well should have been when they pick up the kid while he's throwing rocks at a kitten in the street, after which he gets Bill in the eye with a piece of brick. What follows is one headache after another trying to manage this hard to manage kid--until finally, in the ultimate humourous irony, Driscoll and the narrator give up. The kid's father not only won't pay them ransom, but helpfully offers to take him off their hands only if THEY pay HIM $250, which they do at once, as they absolutely cannot take another minute with the little thug.
Irony appears in several parts of Ransom of Red Cheif. In the beginning, Johnny goes from being the one captured to holding his captors hostage. He literally takes Bill captive during their 'game' (where Johnny becomes 'Red Cheif'), and then the men become his captives when he refuses to return to his family after Sam and Bill have realized they made a mistake taking this child.
Another ironic incident in the story is when Sam mails the ransom note to Johnny's father and he returns it with a note of his own, claiming he'll take Johnny back for $250.00. The two men then have to figure out how to 'unkidnap' their perfect target.