Why did the two kidnappers feel that their kidnapping project would be more successful in a village?

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rmhope eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the literary techniques that O. Henry employs in "The Ransom of Red Chief" is the use of an unreliable narrator. The story is told in the first person by Sam, one of the kidnappers. Much of the humor of the story hinges on the irony of Sam's narration; readers must take everything he says with a grain of salt.

Early in the story, Sam explains the decision to carry out the kidnapping plan in the small Southern town of Summit. The first reason Sam gives when recounting their "moment of temporary mental apparition" is that philoprogenitiveness, or love of one's offspring, "is strong in semi-rural communities." This statement sounds as if it might be the result of cutting-edge market research provided by a savvy business consultant. Of course, readers learn soon enough that Sam and Bill are closer to bumbling idiots than insightful entrepreneurs. Obviously, this claim was baseless--there is no reason at all that parents in small towns would love their children more than parents in the city or country would. 

Readers may infer, then, that this rationale is more of a rationalization. Sam and Bill discussed the kidnapping scheme "on the front steps of the hotel." In other words, it wasn't very well considered. The "other reasons" Sam refers to probably were more important than this impressive-sounding explanation. The fact that the kidnappers were already present in the town meant that they wouldn't have to spend their scarce cash finding a better-suited locale. They also perceived that the residents of Summit weren't too bright since they had named their completely flat town "Summit." The town wasn't overrun with high-powered journalists who would stir up talk about a kidnapping, and the "constables and ... lackadaisical bloodhounds" that made up the police force in town seemed as if they could be easily eluded.  

So, although Sam and Bill attribute their choice of Summit as the scene of their crime to its high level of philoprogenitiveness, they primarily chose it for its convenience and because it offered what they believed would be a higher likelihood of success due to its "undeleterious" citizenry.  

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The two kidnappers, the small-time con men of O. Henry's short story of comic reversals, come to Summit, Alabama, which is located at the southernmost part of the Appalachian Mountains. They figure that the people are rather backward and can be easily manipulated.

It [Summit] contained inhabitants of as undeleterious and self-satisfied a class of peasantry as ever clustered around a Maypole.

Even more than the fact that the town is filled with simple folks, Sam and Bill figure that such a small, remote town will not have any kind of police force or network with other law enforcement agencies. Nor would it have a sophisticated news media, or any reporters from a city who are looking for a story; instead, there is probably only a small local paper. (This story is set at the turn of the nineteenth century, so there would be no television or even radio, probably. Marconi invented it in 1895).

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.

The only two elements upon which Sam and Bill do not figure are Ebenezer Dorset and his red-headed son.