At the end of “The Cop and the Anthem,” Soapy has an epiphany after listening to a song—the “anthem” of the story’s title—emanating from a church. While the church in O. Henry’s story feels surprisingly void of its religious connotations, the anthem emanating from it does nevertheless symbolize hope and redemption for Soapy. He vows to “pull himself out of the mire” and “make a man of himself again” when he hears this song, and O. Henry even goes so far as to say that the church anthem causes a “revolution” in Soapy. Perhaps his most tangible vow is that he will go into New York’s downtown district and find work. “There was time yet,” the narrator remarks while Soapy stares at the church, underscoring his new feeling of potential. One could even argue that the church anthem is a metaphor for the National Anthem, and the feeling it puts in Soapy is symbolic of the promises of the American Dream. Soapy is notably on the outside of the church looking in this scene, barred from entrance by a fence (as many immigrants were at the turn of the 20th century), and yet the music he hears is so moving to him that he vows to change his life and chase life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That he is ultimately unable to, however, would suggest that the hope instilled in him by the church—and perhaps by the American Dream itself—is illusory for those at the bottom rungs of society as Soapy is.
The Church Anthem Quotes in The Cop and the Anthem
And the anthem that the organist played cemented Soapy to the iron fence, for he had known it well in the days when his life contained such things as mothers and roses and ambitions and friends and immaculate thoughts and collars.
He would pull himself out of the mire; he would make a man of himself again; he would conquer the evil that had taken possession of him. There was time; he was comparatively young yet: he would resurrect his old eager ambitions and pursue them without faltering.