1.3 The Cop and the Anthem – Notes.
A short Summary of –
The Cop and the Anthem by O Henry
“The Cop and the Anthem” is a short story by American author O. Henry. It describes the attempts of Soapy, a homeless man to get arrested, so that he’ll have a nice and warm place to stay over the winter – that is the jail. He is looking for an easy way to spend the winter. Rather than getting a job to earn money, his goal is to commit a minor crime that will surely land him in jail – “three months on the Island,” where he will have food and a warm place to stay.
The story begins with the introduction of the main character – Soapy and describes the conditions of his life, surrounding.
The story is of just one evening, but there are some flashbacks which describes the past life of Soapy. It seems that Soapy has a criminal past. Now, his home is a park bench.
The conflict of this story is the struggle between Soapy and Cop and between man and society.
Actually, there are two types of conflict in the story. The first is external, where the character- Soapy tries to hopelessly deal with several things. The second one is internal where he struggles with his own self.
Soapy wants to be caught by the Cop, so he takes a number of actions to achieve his goal to go to jail.
He decides to enter a luxurious cafe with the intention of eating a big, expensive meal. But he is immediately ejected by the head waiter because of the poor condition of his pants and shoes. Next, he attempts to get arrested by smashing a shop window, but is not suspected by the police as the real criminal. In a restaurant he eats stomach-ful & tells the waiter that he has no money. Instead of handing him over to police, two waiters punish Soapy by throwing him on the hard pavement. Further he behaves noisily & disturbs the place to catch the attention of a policeman but is excused as one of the college students. Then he steals an umbrella in a cigar store, but the umbrella-man hesitates to call the cop standing right nearby as the umbrella- man admits that he had stolen the umbrella himself.
Soapy is unable to get himself arrested no matter how hard he tries. But as he fails in his attempts, there is a dramatic change of mood, ideas and his intentions. All these events are related logically. Finally, Soapy stops outside a church. The climax moment is here when Soapy comes to this old church and after listening to the sweet organ notes of the anthem – (a song of hope), he begins to reflect himself. His ideas and opinion change drastically. Soapy stands on the street and considers his plans for his future. However, at this point, a policeman taps him on the shoulder and asks him what he is doing. When Soapy answers “Nothing,” his fate is sealed: he is arrested for loitering and is sentenced to three months to the island. He is ironically arrested, when he doesn’t want to be, and his original wish is thus granted.
The title of the story – In the title of the story, the cop is the cop who arrests Soapy for loitering. The anthem is the music being played by the organist inside the little church. There is supposed to be an ironic contrast between this two. The cop is Soapy’s antagonist and represents the law. While the anthem represents better side of Soapy and his desire to reform. Church anthems are always intended to inspire good thoughts in the listeners. This anthem had an especially strong transforming effect on Soapy because of all the troubles he had experienced on that cold day.
The message of the story is that every person has a story. Even the homeless man on the street has his own story, that may be different from his present state. There are references to his better past life but we are not told as to how or why Soapy became homeless. The writer teaches us to feel sympathy for him and to hope for better things when Soapy begins to plan a future for himself.
The various words used in the story to indicate prison or jail-
- Winter island
- Coveted island,
- Unattainable Arcadia,
The different ways Soapy tries to get arrested-
- Soapy goes into a luxurious cafe with the intention of eating a big, expensive meal. But he is immediately ejected by the head waiter because of the poor condition of his pants and shoes.
- Soapy attempts to get arrested by smashing a shop window, but is not suspected by the police as the real criminal.
- In a restaurant Soapy eats stomach-ful & tells the waiter that he has no money. Instead of handing him over to police, two waiters punish Soapy by throwing him on the hard pavement.
- Soapy behaves noisily & disturbs the place to catch the attention of a policeman but is excused as one of the college students.
- Soapy steals an umbrella in a cigar store, but the umbrella-man hesitates to call the cop who was standing right nearby as the umbrella- man admits that he had stolen the umbrella himself.
The Church Atmosphere-
- A soft light glowed through the violet-stained window.
- The organist was playing an anthem on the instrument like an expert.
- The moon was above, full & radiant.
- Sparrows twittered sleepily in the eaves.
- There were very few vehicles & pedestrians.
Difference between Soapy’s past life & present life-
|Past life||Present life|
|a) Contained friends & roses||a) Degradation, Unworthy
|b) Ambitions||b) Dead hopes|
|c) Immaculate thoughts &
|c) Wrecked faculties & base
motives made up his
The pleasant change in Soapy after listening to the sweet & solemn organ notes-
- Soapy decides to pull himself out of the mire – the unpleasant situation.
- He decides to be a responsible citizen who earns a living by fair means.
- He thinks of going to the roaring downtown district the next day & find some work.
- He resolves to restore his old ambitions & pursue them.
Words used in the story for degraded state of Soapy-
- Unworthy desires,
- The pit into which he had tumbled,
- The degraded days,
- Dead hopes,
- Wrecked faculties,
- Base motives,
The word anthem is used in the story with a specific meaning. It means a song of hope. A motivational, inspirational song that raise one’s spirit high.