The Ransom of Red Chief

by O. Henry

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How did the boy initially respond to his kidnapping in "The Ransom of Red Chief"?

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"The Ransom of Red Chief" by O. Henry is an ironic story, which means that we should expect the unexpected. The story is set in the city of Summit, a quiet little town which is peace-loving and perfect for a kidnapping, according to Sam and Bill. When the two men make their plans, they decide that nine-year-old Johnny Dorset is the most likely victim because his father is rich and can pay the ransom.

When the men try to kidnap the boy, things begin to go wrong. They should have paid a little more attention, for as they pull up to try to lure the boy into their carriage, they see this:

The kid was in the street, throwing rocks at a kitten on the opposite fence.

This is not his response to their kidnapping him, of course, but it is not as auspicious beginning for their first encounter with Johnny and should have given them a clue to the boy's temperament and character. When Bill asks the boy if he would like to come for a ride and have a bag of candy, Johnny does not answer but "catches Bill neatly in the eye with a piece of brick."

Sam recounts the rest of the incident:

That boy put up a fight like a welter-weight cinnamon bear; but, at last, we got him down in the bottom of the buggy and drove away.

This is the initial response Johnny has to the kidnapping. Once they get to the men's camp, things get even worse, at least for Bill. Johnny bruises and scratches Bill and the roles have reversed. Johnny now calls himself Red Chief and Bill is his captive. It turns out that the boy likes to camp and, now that he is in control, is quite enjoying this entire experience. Bill is not so enthusiastic, of course. Sam says it this way:

Yes, sir, that boy seemed to be having the time of his life. The fun of camping out in a cave had made him forget that he was a captive, himself.

In short, nothing about this kidnapping has been easy, and now two grown men find themselves at the mercy of a nine-year-old boy playing make believe games. 

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In "The Ransom of Red Chief" by O. Henri, how does the little boy respond to being kidnapped?

The little boy named Johnny Dorset, who calls himself Red Chief, is delighted with being kidnapped because it lets him escape from the discipline and chores of home, if any; because it gets him out of school; because it lets him live in the outdoors like a real Indian; and because it seems like the supreme adventure of his life. He relates well to Bill and Sam. He has never known any adults who behaved in such an antisocial way. They become, in his eyes, like Indians themselves. Being outlaws, the two men have relinquished whatever dignity and authority they might have had as respectable adult citizens. Red Chief treats Sam as an equal and Bill as a subordinate. The kidnappers' biggest problem is not keeping their captive in their custody, but in getting rid of him. They have a tiger by the tail. 

“Red Chief,” says I to the kid, “would you like to go home?”
“Aw, what for?” says he. “I don’t have any fun at home. I hate to go to school. I like to camp out. You won’t take me back home again, Snake-eye, will you?”
“Not right away,” says I. “We’ll stay here in the cave a while.”
“All right!” says he. “That’ll be fine. I never had such fun in all my life.”

He couldn't have much fun at home with his father. The name Ebenezer Dorset suggests that the man is a sourpuss and a skinflint like Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens' famous tale "A Christmas Carol." The boy is having so much fun because of the contrast between life as a kidnap victim and life at home.

It turns out that Ebenezer drives a tight bargain, as he probably has done all his adult life, since he owns much of the property in the vicinity of Summit and holds mortgages on the rest. Instead of paying to get his wild son back, he demands $250 to take him off their hands. And because of the trouble Red Chief has given them, they are willing to pay the reverse-ransom.

O. Henry's stories are often ironic. But "The Ransom of Red Chief" is crammed with ironies. The kidnap victim enjoys being a victim. His father doesn't seem to care if he ever gets him back. And the kidnappers have to pay reverse-ransom in order to get rid of the victim.

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How does the boy respond to the kidnappers and what can you infer about his character in "The Ransom of Red Chief" by O. Henry?

When Sam and Bill decide to kidnap the son of the most prominent citizen in town, "a mortgage fancier" and wealthy man named Ebenezer Dorset, they capture an enfant terrible who later calls himself "Red Chief." 

After Bill and Sam drive into town, the men pull up next to a little boy who is throwing bricks at a cat. 

“Hey, little boy!” says Bill, “would you like to have a bag of candy and a nice ride?”

The boy hurls a piece of brick at Bill.

“That will cost the old man an extra five hundred dollars,” says Bill, climbing over the wheel.

Clearly, this rambunctious and unmannerly boy has been spoiled and allowed to be impetuous and wild, rather than be made to behave.

Of course, the humor of the story derives from Red Chief's further acts of terror at the camp that Bill and Sam set up above the town. Sam returns to this hideout many times to find Red Chief has battered Bill. Sam also awakens to find Red Chief sitting on Bill, holding the man's hair in his hand with the intention of scalping him. Sam and Bill try to return the boy after obtaining no word from his father. Ebeneezer Dorset only takes the boy back when Sam and Bill pay him, not the other way around as the kidnappers originally hoped.

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In "The Ransom of Red Chief" by O. Henry, how does the little boy respond at first to being kidnapped?

Sam and Bill select the son of Ebenezer Dorset as their victim. After storing their provisions in a cave on the mountain, they drive their rented buggy into town and spy the boy throwing rocks at a kitten. They try to entice him into the buggy by offering him candy and a ride. The boy, whose name is Johnny, throws a piece of brick at Bill that hits him him in the eye. The men have to struggle with Johnny to get him into the buggy; in fact, he "put up a fight like a welter-weight cinnamon bear." This means that the boy does not go willingly, nor is he convinced by the bribe they offer him.

However, once Johnny is at the camp of the kidnappers, he begins to enjoy himself. He pretends to be Red Chief, an "Indian" who has captured Hank the Trapper, played by Bill. Bill has bruises all over his shins where Johnny has kicked him. Ironically, Johnny is very happy in his captivity; he "seemed to be having the time of his life." He thinks camping out in a cave is a lark. In fact, during dinner he assures the men he doesn't want to go home at all because he doesn't have any fun there. He would much rather camp out with his friends "Snake-eye" and "Hank."

Although Johnny fights the men during his initial capture, he soon warms to the idea of camping out with the men and declares he has "never had such fun in all [his] life."

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How did the little boy respond at first to being kidnapped in "The Ransom of Red Chief"?

The little boy at first fights vigorously against being kidnapped. He struggles, the narrator tells us, like a "welter-weight cinnamon bear." Once brought to the cave where they are hiding him, however, the boy begins to have fun. He isn't frightened at all and soon has named himself Red Chief and dressed up like a Native American. He plays a game in which he takes Bill captive and states he will scalp him at daybreak. Bill is bruised because of how hard Red Chief kicks him.

Red Chief says he is having a great time camping out in the cave and tells the narrator, Sam, that he will be broiled alive the next day.

Bill is, according the narrator, terrorized by the little boy from the start, especially after he actually tries to scalp him with a knife. It isn't much better for Sam: instead of being frightened at being kidnapped, the boy frightens and intimidates both his captors.

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