What Point of View Is "The Ransom of Red Chief" Written In?

Innocent Red Chief is a narrative nightmare for O. Henry's kidnappers.
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O. Henry's tale "The Ransom of Red Chief" is written in first-person point of view; the story's narrator is Sam, a kidnapper. He and his partner Bill have abducted Johnny Dorset, a 10-year-old hellion who dubs himself "Red Chief" and makes his captors' lives an escalating nightmare. The first-person narrative allows reader to both laugh at and sympathize with desperate -- and wrong-headed -- criminals.

1 Criminal Sympathy

O. Henry himself spent time in prison, so his first-person approach gives verisimilitude to the tale. The narrative details the kidnappers' frustrating situation from Sam's viewpoint, but also allows the reader an eyeful of the hapless Bill's predicament, as "Red Chief" scalps, scalds and trips him while hitting him with a rock. "I was afraid for his mind," says Sam, an observation that is all too believable coming from an eyewitness.

2 Final Funny Irony

Sam and Bill ultimately pay Johnny's father to take back his boy while they make a run for it. The first-person narration gives this ironic ending a comic fillip, as the hefty Bill outdistances Sam half a mile in escaping his tormentor.

Michael Stratford is a National Board-certified and Single Subject Credentialed teacher with a Master of Science in educational rehabilitation (University of Montana, 1995). He has taught English at the 6-12 level for more than 20 years. He has written extensively in literary criticism, student writing syllabi and numerous classroom educational paradigms.