The Cop and the Anthem

by

O. Henry

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Cop and the Anthem can help.

The Police Character Analysis

Soapy encounters police officers more than any other members of New York City society in “The Cop and the Anthem.” Though they are never given names, the police officers in the story act as social gatekeepers and form a collective antagonist for Soapy, as he needs them to arrest him in order to make it to Blackwell’s Island. The police refuse to do so until the very end of the story, when Soapy ironically no longer desires to be arrested at all after hearing the anthem at the church. Throughout the story, police officers repeatedly misidentify Soapy, ignore his crimes, and mischaracterize his place within society. In many ways, the police in O. Henry’s story symbolize American society’s relationship to its homeless and criminal populations. When Soapy shatters a storefront window with a brick in an attempt to get arrested, one police officer “refuse[s] to accept Soapy even as a clue,” suggesting that Soapy is invisible to the police at times and he is only a criminal when the police see him as such. When Soapy shouts at a police officer and tries to get arrested for disorderly conduct, another policeman misidentifies him as a Yale student, once again determining how Soapy is viewed by the rest of the characters in the story. When Soapy does earnestly change his hopes and dreams at the end of the story and vow to turn his life around, the police once again fail to recognize their stake in derailing Soapy’s aspirations.

The Police Quotes in The Cop and the Anthem

The The Cop and the Anthem quotes below are all either spoken by The Police or refer to The Police. 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:
Poverty, Homelessness, and Crime Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Modern Library Editions edition of The Cop and the Anthem published in 1994.
The Cop and the Anthem Quotes

Soapy, having decided to go to the Island, at once set about accomplishing his desire. There were many easy ways of doing this. The pleasantest was to dine luxuriously at some expensive restaurant; and then, after declaring insolvency, be handed over quietly and without uproar to a policeman.

Related Characters: Soapy, The Police
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:

The policeman’s mind refused to accept Soapy even as a clue.

Related Characters: Soapy, The Police
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:

“’Tis one of them Yale lads celebratin’ the goose egg they give to the Hartford College. Noise; but no harm. We’ve instructions to lave them be.”

Related Characters: The Police (speaker), Soapy
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

“Three months on the Island,” said the Magistrate in the Police Court the next morning.

Related Characters: Soapy, The Police
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Cop and the Anthem LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Cop and the Anthem PDF

The Police Character Timeline in The Cop and the Anthem

The timeline below shows where the character The Police appears in The Cop and the Anthem. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Cop and the Anthem
Poverty, Homelessness, and Crime Theme Icon
Society, Power, and Class Theme Icon
Community and Home  Theme Icon
...even make it to a table, a waiter spots Soapy’s frayed trousers. Instead of calling the police , the staff throws Soapy out on the street. (full context)
Poverty, Homelessness, and Crime Theme Icon
Society, Power, and Class Theme Icon
...“cunningly displayed wares,” Soapy hurls a cobblestone through the glass and shatters it. When a police officer arrives at the scene of the crime, Soapy identifies himself as the culprit and peppers... (full context)
Poverty, Homelessness, and Crime Theme Icon
Society, Power, and Class Theme Icon
...attempts to engage in disorderly conduct and get arrested by shouting drunken gibberish at a police officer . He dances, howls, raves, and even goes so far as to “disturb the welkin.”... (full context)
Poverty, Homelessness, and Crime Theme Icon
Society, Power, and Class Theme Icon
...his silk umbrella, almost arrogantly self-assured that this action will get him arrested. When a police officer witnesses the dispute, the man with the umbrella stutters and retreats, revealing to Soapy that... (full context)
Poverty, Homelessness, and Crime Theme Icon
The American Dream  Theme Icon
Society, Power, and Class Theme Icon
Community and Home  Theme Icon
...before he can put his plan into action, Soapy feels the familiar hand of a police officer on his arm, he is arrested for loitering, and he is sentenced to three months... (full context)