Why does Bill and Sam's plan backfire in "The Ransom of Red Chief"? 

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O. Henry's "The Ransom of Red Chief" is the perfect short story to find examples of irony. Irony is when the opposite of what is expected to happen, happens. For example, when two grown men decide to kidnap a young boy of ten, it is they, not him, who should have the upper hand. The kidnappers should strike fear into the boy and the boy's family in order to be taken seriously and obtain the ransom they want. None of these things occur. In fact, Johnny Dorset strikes fear into Bill and Sam by threatening to scalp Bill and to burn Sam at the stake by daybreak. Johnny inflicts other acts of terror on the kidnappers while his father, Ebenezer, does the unexpected as well.

Ebenezer Dorset does not accommodate the kidnappers' demands for ransom. He knows his son for who he is and therefore knows that Johnny can take care of himself in any crisis. Two kidnappers are nothing compared to his son. This attitude is ironic because no one would expect a father to be calm in a situation like the kidnapping of his son. All the father has to do is wait until the kidnappers have had enough of Johnny and they will more than likely pay him to give back his son. Ebenezer is right because he sends them an offer to pay him $250 to take Johnny off their hands. Bill and Sam comply because they need their sleep and a chance to get out of town before something worse happens. Therefore, Bill and Sam's kidnapping plan to get some "quick" money for their next con backfires because of the above-mentioned, unexpected events that occur.

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