The Ransom of Red Chief

by O. Henry
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Why is Summit's name ironic?

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Perhaps the town is called Summit because the locals wanted to make it sound more grand than it actually is. As Sam tells us, the town is as flat as a flannel cake, so either the townsfolk were being ironic when they founded the place or, as we've said, they...

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Perhaps the town is called Summit because the locals wanted to make it sound more grand than it actually is. As Sam tells us, the town is as flat as a flannel cake, so either the townsfolk were being ironic when they founded the place or, as we've said, they wanted to make their new town sound much more impressive. Either way, it's clear that the two would-be kidnappers don't have much regard for the people who live there, seeing them as a bunch of dumb country bumpkins crying out to get ripped off. Their planned kidnapping of little Johnny is intended—appropriately enough—to be the summit of their criminal careers. In actual fact, their total incompetence, coupled with little Johnny's brattish behavior, combine to ensure that Sam and Bill's ransom plan ends up falling flat on its face. As flat as a flannel cake, you might say.

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It is ironic because it is completely contrary to the actual facts.  Summit, of course, means the top of something like a hill or mountain.  But the narrator tells us that the town is down there, flat as a flannelcake.

The reason for this, I think, is that the narrator is trying to set up the idea that he and his partner are smart and the people around the town are stupid.  The two of them think that they are going to come in and easily get rich off the hicks in the town.   Having the town have this silly name helps give this feeling that the narrator is superior to them.  That won't last...

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