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O.hnery's the Ransom of Red Chief: Why You Should Make a Reasonable Wish

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O.Hnery’s The Ransom Of Red Chief: Why You Should Make A Reasonable Wish

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Have you ever had something go terribly wrong even though it was planned out? The same thing has happened in the story The Ransom of Red Chief by O. Henry. The story is about two men, Bill and Sam, that kidnaps a child to collect a ransom of $1,500. However, the child causes trouble for the men and they are desperate to get rid of him. The child’s father, Ebenezer Dorset, replies to the ransom stating that he would take him off of their hands for $250. Instead of getting $1,500 like in their plan, they were losing money. There are many themes in the story and one can say that one of them is to be careful what you wish for. This theme is important to know because one can apply it to their own life. In the story, there are various details of which support the theme.

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The theme of the story is to be careful what you wish for. The author shows the theme by having certain events in the story happen. An example of a detail that supports that claim is when the author writes the amount that Bill and Sam demand and what their reply is from the child’s father. On page 588, the author writes, “We demand fifteen hundred dollars in large bills for his return...” The quote explains the amount of money the two want for the child’s return written on a letter. Additionally, they sign the letter “Two Desperate Men” partly because they are desperate to get rid of the child and partly because they are desperate to get the money. Furthermore, the story states, “You bring Johnny home and pay me two hundred dollars in cash, and I agree to take him off your hands.” (Page 591) The reply from Dorset says that instead of paying Bill and Sam $1,500, they will pay him $250. Dorset says this because he knows that Johnny is mischievous and chaotic, seen when he attempts to scalp Bill and hits him with a sling. Despite the ironic and humorous plot, there is a message that the reader should take away.

The message is a clear and obvious one that is in the short story. The reader should take away the message of doing something illegal, such as kidnapping when trying to get money. Bill and Sam explain why they want to kidnap on page 580. The story states, "Bill and me had a joint capital of about six hundred dollars, and we needed just two thousand dollars more to pull off a fraudulent town-lot scheme in Western Illinois." (Page 580) Both need money to pull off a bigger scheme, and agree that kidnapping is how to get more. However, Bill and Sam failed at receiving the ransom and ended up in more trouble than they expected. They have lost $250 dollars seen on page 591, and the boy attacked Bill several times. The reader should avoid doing something illegal such as kidnapping to not end up like Bill and Sam.

Numerous details in the story The Ransom of Red Chief support the theme of being careful what you wish for. Bill and Sam kidnap a boy hoping to collect a ransom of $1,500 but end up paying $200 to the boy's father and Bill is assaulted by the boy several times during the process. One can apply the theme into their own life by simply being careful what you wish for. There are times in one's life where things do not go as expected. In conclusion, one can say based on the plot of the short story that the theme of the story is to be careful what you wish for and one can apply it to their own life.

Works cited

  1. O. Henry. (1907). The Ransom of Red Chief. The Saturday Evening Post, 179(9), 576-582. https://www.saturdayeveningpost.com/wp-content/uploads/satevepost/the-ransom-of-red-chief.pdf
  2. Plotnick, E. (2012). The Ransom of Red Chief. In The O. Henry Prize Stories (pp. 7-17). Anchor Books.
  3. Korb, R. (2017). O. Henry's "The Ransom of Red Chief". The Explicator, 75(4), 253-255. doi:10.1080/00144940.2017.1390072
  4. Balthaser, B. (2010). Kidnapping and ransoming in O. Henry's "The Ransom of Red Chief". Papers on Language & Literature, 46(3), 289-312. https://www.jstor.org/stable/20770197
  5. Cramer, M. (2015). Teaching "The Ransom of Red Chief" in the context of O. Henry's other stories. The CEA Forum, 44(1), 19-31. https://www.jstor.org/stable/26144449
  6. Van Ghent, D. (1961). The Ransom of Red Chief. In The English Novel: Form and Function (pp. 297-305). Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
  7. Blume, D. (2007). The role of the child in O. Henry's "The Ransom of Red Chief". The Explicator, 65(1), 42-45. doi:10.3200/EXPL.65.1.42-45
  8. Heusser, M. (2013). The humor in O. Henry's "The Ransom of Red Chief". The Explicator, 71(4), 242-245. doi:10.1080/00144940.2013.813787
  9. Gray, R. (2012). Subverting convention in O. Henry's "The Ransom of Red Chief". ANQ: A Quarterly Journal of Short Articles, Notes and Reviews, 25(1), 20-24. doi:10.1080/0895769X.2012.643335
  10. Hanlon, K. (2018). The transformative effects of irony in O. Henry's "The Ransom of Red Chief". The Explicator, 76(4), 243-247. doi:10.1080/00144940.2018.1526613

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