The Ransom of Red Chief

Bill Driscoll Character Analysis

Bill Driscoll is Sam’s partner in crime—together, the two men have committed a string of petty crimes “in poker games, dynamite outrages, police raids, train robberies and cyclones.” In a scheme to collect ransom money, Bill and Sam kidnap Johnny, a troubled local boy. Up in a cave in the woods, Bill is often left as Johnny’s only caretaker while Sam attends to other aspects of the plan. Johnny plays rough and Bill takes plenty of bruising and humiliation. Bill participates in Johnny’s cowboy and Indian fantasies, playing the role of Old Hank, a trapper that Johnny holds captive. As the fantasies evolve, Bill plays Johnny’s horse, Black Scout, which requires allowing Johnny to physically ride Bill while Bill is on his hands and knees—this proves to be a breaking point for Bill. After unsuccessfully trying to send Johnny home himself, Bill is the one who suggests lowering the ransom, and he finally begs Sam to pay the $250 fee that Ebenezer has requested to take his son back. Despite that Bill wants to send Johnny away, he proves himself sympathetic to Johnny—participating in his games and downplaying his difficulties—and he even seems to become a father figure to Johnny. His relationship with Johnny is ultimately touching, even redemptive, as Johnny clings to Bill’s legs at the end, refusing to be returned to his own father.

Bill Driscoll Quotes in The Ransom of Red Chief

The The Ransom of Red Chief quotes below are all either spoken by Bill Driscoll or refer to Bill Driscoll . For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Crime, Violence, and Empathy Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Modern Library edition of The Ransom of Red Chief published in 1994.
The Ransom of Red Chief Quotes

There was a town down there, as flat as a flannel-cake, and called Summit, of course. It contained inhabitants of as undeleterious and self-satisfied a class of peasantry as ever clustered around a Maypole.

Related Characters: Sam (speaker), Bill Driscoll
Page Number: 189
Explanation and Analysis:
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The father was respectable and tight, a mortgage fancier and a stern, upright collection-plate passer and forecloser.

Related Characters: Sam (speaker), Johnny , Bill Driscoll , Ebenezer Dorset
Page Number: 189
Explanation and Analysis:
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“He's all right now…We're playing Indian.”

Related Characters: Bill Driscoll (speaker), Sam , Johnny
Page Number: 190
Explanation and Analysis:
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“I like this fine. I never camped out before.”

Related Characters: Johnny (speaker), Sam , Bill Driscoll
Page Number: 190
Explanation and Analysis:
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[T]hey were simply indecent, terrifying, humiliating screams, such as women emit when they see ghosts or caterpillars. It's an awful thing to hear a strong, desperate, fat man scream incontinently in a cave at daybreak.

Related Characters: Sam (speaker), Johnny , Bill Driscoll
Page Number: 192
Explanation and Analysis:
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I expected to see the sturdy yeomanry of the village armed with scythes and pitchforks beating the countryside for the dastardly kidnappers… There was a sylvan attitude of somnolent sleepiness pervading that section of the external outward surface of Alabama that lay exposed to my view.

Related Characters: Sam (speaker), Johnny , Bill Driscoll
Page Number: 193
Explanation and Analysis:
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I never lost my nerve yet till we kidnapped that two-legged skyrocket of a kid... it ain't human for anybody to give up two thousand dollars for that forty-pound chunk of freckled wildcat.

Related Characters: Bill Driscoll (speaker), Sam , Johnny , Ebenezer Dorset
Page Number: 195
Explanation and Analysis:
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“You are the hoss,” says Black Scout. “Get down on your hands and knees. How can I ride to the stockade without a hoss?”

“You’d better keep him interested,” said I, “till we get the scheme going. Loosen up.”

Related Characters: Sam (speaker), Johnny (speaker), Bill Driscoll
Page Number: 196
Explanation and Analysis:
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“The boy is gone. I have sent him home. All is off. There was martyrs in old times…that suffered death rather than give up the particular graft they enjoyed. None of 'em ever was subjugated to such supernatural tortures as I have been.”

Related Characters: Bill Driscoll (speaker), Sam , Johnny
Page Number: 198
Explanation and Analysis:
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Bill turns and sees the boy, and loses his complexion and sits down plump on the ground and begins to pluck aimlessly at grass and little sticks. For an hour I was afraid for his mind. And then I told him that my scheme was to put the whole job through immediately…

Related Characters: Sam (speaker), Johnny , Bill Driscoll
Page Number: 198
Explanation and Analysis:
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I think you are a little high in your demands, and I hereby make you a counter-proposition, which I am inclined to believe you will accept. You bring Johnny home and pay me two hundred and fifty dollars in cash, and I agree to take him off your hands.

Related Characters: Ebenezer Dorset (speaker), Sam , Johnny , Bill Driscoll
Page Number: 199
Explanation and Analysis:
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We took him home that night. We got him to go by telling him that his father had bought a silver-mounted rifle and a pair of moccasins for him, and we were going to hunt bears the next day.

Related Characters: Sam (speaker), Johnny , Bill Driscoll , Ebenezer Dorset
Page Number: 200
Explanation and Analysis:
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When the kid found out we were going to leave him at home he started up a howl like a calliope and fastened himself as tight as a leech to Bill's leg. His father peeled him away gradually, like a porous plaster.

Related Characters: Sam (speaker), Johnny , Bill Driscoll , Ebenezer Dorset
Page Number: 200
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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Bill Driscoll Character Timeline in The Ransom of Red Chief

The timeline below shows where the character Bill Driscoll appears in The Ransom of Red Chief. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Ransom of Red Chief
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The narrator, Sam, and his friend Bill are down in Summit, Alabama (a town as “flat as a flannel-cake”) when they are... (full context)
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Sam and Bill select as their victim Johnny Dorset, the ten year old red-haired only child of “prominent... (full context)
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Bill vows that the brick will cost Johnny’s father an extra $500 ransom as they wrestle... (full context)
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When Sam returns, he discovers Bill tending to scratches and bruises, but the scene is calm with a fire and a... (full context)
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...the cave scanning the woods for imaginary paleface scouts, and making a warwhoop that scares Bill. Sam asks if Johnny would like to go home, but Johnny pleads not to be... (full context)
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Sam and Bill go to sleep with Johnny between them, not afraid he will run away. He continues... (full context)
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Sam takes the knife from Johnny and makes him lay down, but Bill is shaken and doesn’t sleep. Sam dozes for a while but wakes early, remembering Johnny’s... (full context)
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...returns to the camp for breakfast only to find that Johnny is once again threatening Bill with bodily harm, this time with a rock half the size of a coconut. Bill... (full context)
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After breakfast, Johnny takes a leather slingshot and goes out of the cave. Bill is worried, wondering what he’s up to and if he’s trying to run away. Sam... (full context)
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Bill mentions that his favorite Bible character is King Herod, the King who doubts Jesus and... (full context)
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After Bill and Johnny shake hands, Sam tells Bill they should send the “peremptory” ransom note to... (full context)
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...hours. With the letter in his pocket, Sam encounters Johnny, who asks if he and Bill can play the Black Scout game while he’s gone, since he’s tired of being an... (full context)
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Sam tells Johnny that Bill will play his new game, warning Bill that he should keep the child occupied until... (full context)
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...the cave and await a response. When Sam returns to the cave, he can’t find Bill or Johnny anywhere, so he waits. After half an hour, Bill returns to camp, wiping... (full context)
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Bill apologizes to Sam for having sent Johnny home, but declares he could no longer endure... (full context)
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Sam asks Bill to turn around and see that Johnny has been following behind him all along. Bill... (full context)
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...he observes the note was written in a “crabbed hand,” and he reads it to Bill by the light of a lantern. (full context)
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...responsible for the actions of his neighbors (who believe Johnny is lost) should Sam and Bill be seen during the day bringing back his troublesome boy.  (full context)
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Sam is shocked at the audacity of Ebenezer’s response, but Bill is relieved to think their ordeal may finally be at an end. Bill argues that... (full context)
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At midnight, Sam and Bill bring Johnny to Ebenezer’s house in Summit and pay him $250. Johnny, upset when realizing... (full context)