"The Ransom of Red Chief" is a 1910 short story by O. Henry first published in The Saturday Evening Post. It follows two men who kidnap and attempt to ransom a wealthy Alabaman's son; eventually, the men are driven crazy by the boy's spoiled and hyperactive behavior, and end up having to pay the boy's father to take him back.
The story and its main idea have become a part of popular culture, with many children's television programs using a version of the story as one of their episodes. The tale is a light-hearted example of the ultimate in "poetic justice" and fortuitous intervention for the public good: the crooks had intended to use the ransom money to fund an even larger and much more elaborate scam that would likely have caused widespread monetary damage to the local populace, and so having their plans "foiled in their infancy" by Red Chief's shrewd father saves countless other honest folks from financial ruin. It has also been often used as a classic example of two ultimate comic ironies-a supposed "hostage" actually liking his abductors and enjoying being captured, and his captors getting their just deserts by having the tables turned on them, and being compelled to pay to be rid of him.Two small-time criminals, Bill and Sam, kidnap Johnny (10 years old), the red-haired son of an important citizen named Ebenezer Dorset, and hold him for ransom. But the moment they arrive at their hideout with the boy, the plan begins to unravel. Calling himself Red Chief, the boy proceeds to drive his captors to distraction with his unrelenting chatter, malicious pranks, and demands that they play wearying games with him. Growing tired of the boy, the criminals desperately write a letter to the boy's father to get rid of him, stating that they will lower the ransom. The father, who knows his son well and realizes how intolerable he will be to his captors and how desirous they will soon be to rid themselves of the delinquent child, rejects their demand and offers to take the boy off their hands only if they pay him. The men hand over the money and the howling boy-who had actually been happier being away from his stricter father and thus does not want to be "rescued" from his more-lenient captors-and flee after the father threatens to turn his son loose on them......
William Sydney Porter (September 11, 1862 - June 5, 1910), known by his pen name O. Henry, was an American short story writer. His stories are known for their surprise endings.
William Sidney Porter was born on September 11, 1862, in Greensboro, North Carolina. He changed the spelling of his middle name to Sydney in 1898. His parents were Dr. Algernon Sidney Porter (1825-88), a physician, and Mary Jane Virginia Swaim Porter (1833-65). William's parents had married on April 20, 1858. When William was three, his mother died from tuberculosis, and he and his father moved into the home of his paternal grandmother. As a child, Porter was always reading, everything from classics to dime novels; his favorite works were Lane's translation of One Thousand and One Nights and Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy....
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About the Author
O. Henry was the pen name of William Sydney Porter (1862-1910) was a prolific American short story writer. Initially trained as a pharmacist, Porter began his writing career as a journalist and worked on his stories on the side. After being accused of embezzling money from a bank he worked for, he fled to Honduras. He returned to the US upon the death of his wife and was sentenced to five years in prison. It was during this time that he began to have his first stories published. He later moved to New York and began writing stories in earnest. Some of his most famous stories include "Gift of the Magi" and "The Caballero's Way" which introduced the character, the Cisco Kid.