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The Ransom of Red Chief

by O. Henry

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Discussion Topic

Red Chief's behavior and words toward his kidnappers

Summary:

In "The Ransom of Red Chief," Red Chief's behavior and words toward his kidnappers are mischievous and fearless. He treats the situation as a grand adventure, tormenting his captors with pranks and threats, showing no fear or understanding of the gravity of his situation. His antics ultimately drive his captors to desperation.

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What does Red Chief say to terrorize his kidnappers?

The Red Chief terrorizes Bill the most, and he tells him, "I'll fix you . . . No man ever yet struck the Red Chief but what he got paid for it. You better beware!" This is an undefined threat, but what is more terrifying to the kidnappers, once they've had the boy for a day, is that Red Chief is really enjoying his time with them away from home and has no desire to return to his parents. He tells them, "I never had such fun in all my life."

The kidnappers end up black and blue from the blows Red Chief inflicts on them and realize that their plan has backfired when their ransom note is countered by Red Chief's father; he asks for $250 to take the boy off their hands. Bill and Sam, the kidnappers, conclude that it is a good deal and are only too happy to hand over the boy and the money before leaving town.

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What does Red Chief say to terrorize his kidnappers?

Red Chief terrorizes his kidnappers by sitting in the entrance of the cave where they are hiding out and asking one of the kidnappers if he dares to enter Red Chief's camp. He also calls Sam, one of the kidnappers, a spy and tells him that his braves will roast Sam alive when they return. In addition to prattling on continuously, Red Chief also lets out blood-curdling war cries and tries to scalp Bill, the other kidnapper. One of the most terrifying things that Red Chief tells his kidnappers is that he's having so much fun that he doesn't want to go home. He says this before he decides to become Black Scout and ride Bill like a horse. In the end, the kidnappers wind up paying Red Chief's father to take him back, as Red Chief, though just a child, is such a terror. 

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Is Red Chief mean to his kidnappers?

'Perhaps,' says I to myself, it has not yet been discovered that the wolves have borne away the tender lambkin from the fold.  Heaven hel the wolves!'says I.  The "two-legged skyrocket of a kid" in "The Ransom of Red Chief" is not exactly mean; he is a terror for the ones who steal him.  In fact, herein lies the humor of the story: Two 'city slicker' tricksters have underestimated the underdogs in a rural Alabama town that they assume will only have a couple of constables and some lackadaisical bloodhounds.

What Snake-Eye and Bill do encounter is a boy who, after they have kidneapped him, turns the role of captor and captive around.  It is the boy who, from the start, terrorizes Bill. Yet, the child seems to be having the time of his life, play-acting with his captives. Finally, after Red Chief threatens to strike Bill, Bill begs his partner to return the boy.

The misadventures of the boy continue as he rides Bill like a horse and places a boiled potato down his shirt and smashes it.  Exasperated beyond his senses, Bills boxes the boy on his ears.  The "forty pounds of freckled wildcat" threatens, then, to hit Bill with a rock.

Finally, the kidnappers receive a letter, in response to theirs, saying that they can pay $250.00 and return the boy to his parents in the cover of night.  They agree. Foiled, they have paid rather than extorted a ransom fee of $2000.

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How do Red Chief's actions foreshadow the trouble he will cause for his kidnappers?

To be honest, I do not think that there is a lot of foreshadowing going on in this short story.  After all, the first time that the kidnappers talk to the boy, he hits Bill in the eye with a piece of brick that he throws.  It seems to me that at that point, he is already causing trouble -- not foreshadowing trouble.

Then, when they grab him, he fights them very hard.  That, too, seems like trouble, not foreshadowing.  But I suppose you can say that that foreshadows all the trouble he will cause once they have kidnapped him.

And if you are only asking about what the kid does once he is pretending to be Red Chief, the same goes.  When we first see him being Red Chief, he has already bruised Bill's shins by kicking him.

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