ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Books, Literature, and Writing

The Ranson Of Red Chief

Updated on September 27, 2010

A. About the Author:

O.Henry was a prolific American short story writer, a master of surprise endings, who wrote about the life of ordinary people in New York City. William Sydney Porter was born in Greensboro, North Carolina. When he was three, his mother died, and he was raised by his paternal grandmother and aunt. At the age of fifteen he left school. In 1897 he was convicted of stealing money. In prison he started to write short stories to earn money to support his daughter Margaret. After three of the five years sentence he came out of the prison. In 1901 he changed his name to O. Henry and died of cirrhosis of the liver on June 5 1910 .

B. Summary:Bill Driscoll and the narrator (Sam) need two thousand dollars in order to start a business. So, they decide to kidnap the only child of a widely known citizen, named Ebenezer. After a couple of days, they sent to the father a letter demanding him to pay two thousand dollars to get his son back. Ironically, Ebenezer tells them to bring his son back home and pay him two hundred and fifty dollars in order to rid them of his troublesome son. After paying the ransom Bill and the narrator leave Summit and head to the Canadian Border.

C. Setting:This story takes place in a cave near Summit. This setting reflects Bill and the narrator’s personality and the cave resembles their way of life which is moving from a place to another. If the setting was in another place like a village, the father of the kidnapped boy would probably not be able to pay the ransom. And probably the kidnappers wont get their two thousand dollars

Literary Elements

A. Plot:

1. Exposition: Bill and Sam are in need of two thousand dollars. In this section , O. Henry introduces the characters and a part of the conflict at an early part of the story.

2.Rising Events :Bill and Sam kidnap Ebenezer’s son and hide him in a cave.

- They keep his son in the cave and send the father a letter demanding to be pay ransom in order to get his son back.

- The men start to get bothered by the son.   In this section, the father realizes that his son was kidnapped. The author shows how the kidnappers treat Ebenezer’s son , how the men lived in the cave , and a part of their personalities. The author also shows how they plan to collect the money

3. Climax:the father suggests that they return his son and pay him two hundred and fifty dollars. In return he will take his son of their hands. In this section the kidnappers are forced to accept the offer and return Johnny home and pay the ransom to the father.

4.Falling Events:

-Bill and Sam take the kid back home.

-They pay the ransom.

-The father allows the kidnappers to run away.

In this part , things seem to head towards a resolution. And the men stick to the preposition. The men are forced to return the son without getting any money.

5. Resolution:

The kidnappers escape, and head outside Summit to the Canadian Borders without the money

E. Conflict :There is no doubt that our conflict in this story is external. Two men who are in need of money decide to kidnap a well known citizen’s son in order to get a ransom of two thousand dollars. The conflict is introduced to us from the beginning of the story. It could also be described as man versus man , since the story describes how they kidnapped the kid the conflict is considered external. O. Henry describes how Bill and Sam treat Johnny.


F. Characters:

a) Major Characters:

- Red Chief : He is troublesome, and represents a burden to Bill. He is also playful and doesn’t respect other people. Similarly, Red Chief is a protagonist character who is kidnapped by Bill and Sam but at the end returns to his family. “ I was nine last birthday. I hate to go to school. Rats ate up sixteen of Jimmy Talbots’s aunt’s speckled hen’s eggs… Do Oxen make any noise? Why are oranges round? Have you got beds to sleep on in this cave?” From the previous example we notice that Red Chief is a very talkative kid. He is a mischievous though only nine. O. Henry creates suspense and portrays how “that boy had Bill terrorized from the start.”

-Bill Driscoll and the Narrator: They are independent, and are inexperienced in kidnapping. They are the antagonist characters in the story who kidnap Red Chief . The are incapable when it comes to handling the little kid. They describe him as a little devil who terrorizes Bill and drives both characters insane.

b) Minor Characters:-Ebenezer Dorset: He seems to be serious, smart, and a caring father. He plays no important role in the story. He is only a father who is trying to get his son back from two kidnapers. The sarcastic thing about what he did, is that he demands his son back with 250 $. On the other hand, an ordinary father wouldn’t do that, and would pay the ransom without any hesitation. Ebenezer is a shock for the reader.

G. Point Of View:The author uses the first person point of view in order to tell uses the story. He reveals only the personal thoughts of Red Chief, Bill Driscoll, and Sam as he use the pronouns such as: we, us, I: “We didn’t find that out till later, Bill and me, We selected for our victim … etc

H. Purpose:The purpose of this story is to entertain because the story is a short story, and the author used humor and sarcasm in the story “ I was awakened by a series of awful screams from Bill. They weren’t yells, or howls, or shouts, or whoops, or yawps, such as you’d expect from a manly set of vocal organs-they were simply indecent, terrifying, humiliating screams, such as women emit when they see ghosts or caterpillars” and it’s purpose is to entertain because the subject of the story isn’t serious.

I .Theme:

The theme of this story is implied. The theme is “Criminals always get what they deserve”. Bill and Sam find themselves forced at the end of story to pay Red Chief’s father in order to get rid of the mischievous kid. This is really ironic, because we expected the father to pay the ransom like what ordinary people would do. Instead O. Henry ended the story with a twist and made the story more memorable. Thus, Bill and Sam lost their ransom and had to pay 250 $ to have things sorted out

I. Genre:It is shown by the authors way of writing that the genre of the Ransom Of The Red Chief is a non-fiction because the characters, places, the events and actions in the story seem almost real. O. Henry describes the characters in a very delicate manner. He shows that Red Chief is a very active and mischievous kid . He has made the life of his kidnappers hell.

J. Audience:O. Henry addresses his story for the young audience especially kids and youth. The story can be read as a bedtime story for youngsters. Its humorous mood and ironic ending make it a joy. The reader goes through the adventurers of a young mischievous kid who finds himself once kidnapped by two men. Above all, Red Chief’s mischief has brought happiness and joy into the reader’s hearts .

K. Mood:The mood is the emotional quality or atmosphere that a writer creates in a story. There is no doubt that a story’s mood differs according to its plot. The mood often affects the readers and helps them predict future events. This story’s mood was humorous and a bit serious which describes Bill, Red Chief, and Sam’s mental state “ They were simply indecent, terrifying , humiliating screams such as women emit when they see ghosts.” Some points of the story are really hilarious like when Bill and Sam were in the cave. Other scenes are serious like when Sam and Bill send a ransom note to Red Chief’s father.

L. Tone: The author uses an ironic yet formal tone “you’ll bring Johnny home and pay me two hundred and fifty dollars.” The author uses also a humorous tone. “Aw, Snake-eye you said I could play the black scout while you were gone” . The tone helps create a funny mood and helps the reader ( mostly young children ) relate to the events and laugh their way through the story’s plot. I was really shocked by the ending because it is ironic that Sam and Bill had to pay Red Chief’s father in order to get rid of him instead of collecting the money like any typical kidnapping scenario !

M. Type Of Organization:The author uses chronological order to tell the story and to state the events that took place. He starts by introducing the main characters , the setting , then makes his way through by adding some twists and turns. The story finishes with a touch of irony .

-They kidnapped Johnny.

-They sent a letter to the father with demands.

-The father replies the letter by an offer.

-They accept the offer.

-They return Johnny and pay the father the ransom.

-They escape and head to the Canadian Border.

I really enjoyed the story because it reminded me a lot of my own adventures when I was a kid. I wasn’t a saint and I can relate to Sam and Bill’s misery . It was such a fun going through the story’s twists and turns and I have to say O. Henry has captivated the reader .


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      Slim 3 years ago

      by so many others, and I only say again beasuce it's true. I so regret not spending more time with my children as they were growing up. (The five of them are all twenty or older now.) They are each doing well now, but as I look at things that have not gone well for them over the years, I can't help but feel I contributed to that by the workload I carried in my organizational church job. Which is obviously the flip side of the coin!Anyway, the church mindset is infiltratable; the people there are often open to hearing about deeper spirituality as a Christian; and your family is your primary spiritual responsibility. I will pray for you to clearly see and hear what our Father sees and hears on this for you.

    • profile image

      Finch 3 years ago

      Holy concsie data batman. Lol!

    • profile image

      leeroy 3 years ago

      thankyou helpful for my homework. you are very smart girl and i appreciate the help.

    • Uriel profile image

      Uriel 4 years ago from Lebanon

      simply put can tie the kid, gag him and keep him from making contact with the external world. Then you send a message to the father with a strand of the kid's hair telling him that if the ransom is not paid the next message will contain a finger or an ear of his kid.

      Although this may seem a bit too extreme when it comes threats, they need to be credible to obtain your goal. A strand of hair would serve the purpose, although i don't aim to have his fingers chopped :P

    • profile image

      grace 4 years ago

      What could the kidnappers have done to escape their victim without paying the $200? ya know like a plan B.

    • Uriel profile image

      Uriel 4 years ago from Lebanon

      Thank you all to your insightful comments, they are always appreciated and welcomed :)

      warm regards ,


    • profile image

      juan 5 years ago

      this book is cool

    • profile image

      ~Leah~ 5 years ago

      i read this book in class i dont want to sound rude but it was lame... lol luv yah

    • profile image

      Person 5 years ago

      You should include the main idea.

    • profile image

      I'm Cool 6 years ago

      Thank you so much! It helped a lot.

    • profile image

      Nelly 6 years ago

      This is very useful!

    • profile image

      Rulslan 7 years ago

      Thanx to u Uriel ) It's really good story and hub...

    • profile image

      pickles 7 years ago

      this story was ok. it was older so not that amusing. However i did like the twist ending. it was shocking and different. i liked the kid very funny. the book overall was pretty good. and thanks for the info. it helped a lot, i didn't have the story and needed this info:):):)

    • Uriel profile image

      Uriel 7 years ago from Lebanon

      Thanks Guys for the comments :D

    • profile image

      Kristine10 7 years ago

      this book was very well writen. I enjoy the usage of irony the author adds to the story.

    • profile image

      sreaminman 7 years ago

      this was very helpful for my homework sheet about this book.

    • profile image

      mr.futuristic 7 years ago

      this story was funny i got to read it for homework lol

    • profile image

      badboy 7 years ago

      yalla 7ayah

    • Uriel profile image

      Uriel 8 years ago from Lebanon

      At least now you have a less reason to feel bad about it

    • Uriel profile image

      Uriel 8 years ago from Lebanon

      At least now you have a less reason to feel bad about it

    • profile image

      kid 8 years ago

      this book suks

    • Uriel profile image

      Uriel 8 years ago from Lebanon

      Kid Eternity, thank you for the comment, O henry is a prolific writer :D . Ill be sure to read the story :D ..

    • Kid Eternity profile image

      Kid Eternity 8 years ago from Alabama

      "The Ransom of Red Chief" is a hilarious example of the work of Sydney Porter - O.Henry. Porter was a writer who grasped the human condition and wrung every bit of emotion out of it that he could - humor, pathos, anger, desire, and more. If you enjoyed 'Ransom,' or other stories by O.Henry, perhaps you would enjoy reading the following:

    • Uriel profile image

      Uriel 8 years ago from Lebanon

      ANytime :D Thank you for stopping by :d

    • lizrenee44 profile image

      lizrenee44 8 years ago from Missouri

      Thanks for the welcome. Very good hub!!

    • Uriel profile image

      Uriel 8 years ago from Lebanon

      Well, at first it was a blower!! It made me laugh i mean that kid was a devil ! Thanks!!

    • k@ri profile image

      Kari Poulsen 8 years ago from Ohio

      That sounds like a very amusing story! I think I read it when I was younger. I really like how the father makes them pay to drop the kid back off! LOL, sounds like a winner!