The Ransom of Red Chief

by O. Henry

Start Free Trial

Why is the name "Summit" considered ironic in "The Ransom of Red Chief"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

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.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

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...

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial