What Is a Summary of “The Ransom of Red Chief”?

“The Ransom of Red Chief” by O. Henry is a short story about two criminals who kidnap the son of a prominent citizen and hold him for ransom. The boy is so obnoxious that the kidnappers pay the father to take the boy back.

The criminals, Bill and Sam, come up with the kidnapping idea to finance another scheme they have in mind. They grab the 10-year-old boy while he is playing and take him to a cave outside town. Once there, the boy nicknames himself “Red Chief,” decides he likes camping and annoys the men unceasingly with his pranks, threats, demands and rough games. The father, knowing his son’s proclivities, refuses to pay, even when the kidnappers reduce the amount of the ransom in desperation. Instead, the father demands $250 to relieve the criminals of the boy. Bill and Sam agree, pay the money in relief and immediately flee the area.

First published in the Saturday Evening Post, “The Ransom of Red Chief” is an example of the type of story O. Henry, whose real name was William Sydney Porter, was known for. He specialized in humorous stories with surprise endings. In fact, so many of his stories had twist endings that they became associated with his name.