Who is Sam in O. Henry's story "The Ransom of Red Chief"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Sam is one of the two con-men who kidnap the wealthy Ebenezeer Dorset's boy; he is also the narrator of the story.

Sam misjudges himself and others in this tale. First of all, he considers himself erudite as he employs such words as diatribedeletrious, and sylvan, but then he uses a malapropism, philoprogenitiveness. Secondly, he feels that he and Bill are sophisticated in the art of extortion and in various schemes of inveigling others to part with their money, but their plans fall through. Thirdly, he and his partner Bill decide that the rustics of a small town in Alabama will be no competition against them in their plan to kidnap the son of the wealthy banker Dorset, but this is not the case, either.

We knew that Summit couldn’t get after us with anything stronger than constables and, maybe, some lackadaisical bloodhounds and a diatribe or two in the Weekly Farmers’ Budget. So, it looked good.

Sam and his partner also figure that Mr. Dorset will pay a ransom of two thousand dollars for his son. However, they have underestimated the banker Dorset, and they have completely misjudged Johnny Dorset, an enfant terrible who reverses Bill's and Sam's roles from captors to victims. So defeated are Sam and Bill by the incessant talking, yelling and injuries inflicted by Johnny, the savage Red Chief, that they pay Mr. Dorset two hundred and fifty dollars to reclaim his son. Then, because Mr. Dorset says that he can only hold his wild son for so long, the two men hurriedly flee the state.

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The Ransom of Red Chief

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