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Summary of "The Cop and the Anthem by O’Henry

The story “The Cop and the Anthem '' too takes place in New York in the early 1900s. The story is about the incidents that take place one night and on

The Cop and the Anthem - Summary

The story “The Cop and the Anthem '' too takes place in New York in the early 1900s. The story is about the incidents that take place one night and one morning in the life of Soapy, the protagonist of the story. O’ Henry is the pen name of William Sydney Porter. As he is an American, most of his stories are located in New York. His stories end with a surprise element

Soapy is homeless and stays at Madison Square Park. When winter comes he has to move somewhere else as the park will be too cold.  He wants to spend the winter in the prison on the Island to avoid the cold. So, Soapy decides to do what he has done for several winters: get himself arrested so he can spend the winter in jail. He does not like to take charity because when people give him things, they try to invade his privacy. In jail, they lock one up, but they do not care about others' personal lives. Now he decides to get imprisoned. In order to get arrested he decides to eat in a fancy restaurant without paying money. But the waiter figures out by looking at his clothes. He does not allow Soapy to enter the restaurant.

Next, Soapy breaks the display window of a shop with a rock. A policeman instantly appears and asks Soapy who broke the window. Soapy says that he broke the window, but the policeman does not believe him. Since he does not run away, the policeman could not believe Soapy as responsible. After that, Soapy finds a cheaper restaurant to try his initial plan on. He gets in and eats there. When Soapy reveals that he cannot pay for the meal, the waiters refuse to call the Police, and toss Soapy out on his ear instead.

Later Soapy sees a pretty lady and decides to hit the lady in front of a Police. She happens to be an immoral woman who asks him to buy some drinks. Soapy runs away from her and tries to get arrested by yelling and dancing like a maniac on the street in front of a policeman. This policeman thinks Soapy is a drunken college guy, and he too leaves Soapy alone. Finally, Soapy steals a man's umbrella, claiming it as his. The man confesses that he actually found the umbrella and that it could be Soapy's. So, he does not call over the policeman watching them.

Disappointed Soapy gives up trying to get arrested for the night, and heads back to his park bench. On the way, he comes to a quiet street with a church on it. He hears a beautiful anthem (religious hymn) being played in a church. Soapy knows the anthem and it reminds him of past days when he had family and friends and church.

The anthem creates a huge change in Soapy. He realizes that he can have a better life than this and plans for the future. Soapy's thoughts are interrupted by a policeman. He arrests Soapy for wandering and for not having a place to live. The next morning, a judge sentences Soapy to three months in jail.

The irony of the story or the surprise element of the story is when Soapy wanted to be arrested he was left free by the police and when he decided to lead a decent life, he was arrested by the police.

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