O. Henry’s short story, “The Cop and the Anthem,” tells of Soapy, a homeless man living on the streets of New York. He notices the signs of the upcoming winter:
Birds begin to fly south. Women who want nice new warm coats become very kind to their husbands.
Soapy contemplates the issues that surround spending another brutally cold winter on the streets of New York. As he watches the first leaves fall, he decides that it would be better to be arrested and spend the winter months in prison, where he would be warm and fed than to freeze on the cold park benches, than to spend another cold night on the park bench. He thinks about how the wealthy plan to go to Florida for the winter and begins to plan his retreat to “the island.” Blackwell’s Island is a prison and the place where Soapy has spent several snowy winters.
In order to go to prison, Soapy realizes that he must first be arrested. As he walks to Sixth Avenue, he sees a large store window. He grabs a big rock and throws it at the window, knowing that the police will soon come running to arrest him. As he waits, he smiles to himself proud that his plan is working out so well.
However, when the cop arrives and sees a man standing in front of the window, he doesn’t even consider Soapy as an option. Soapy looks so happy standing in front of the window, that there’s no way that he could be a criminal. The cop believes that “Men who break windows do not stop there to talk to cops,” so there is no way that Soapy committed the crime. Upset, Soapy begins looking for a new way to get arrested.