How can we describe the structure of the short story "The Cop and the Anthem"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Soapy has a particular goal in life, and he's absolutely determined to achieve it. With the winter coming on, this vagabond needs to find a warm place to stay during the cold weather. He figures that the best place for this will be jail. The plan's pretty simple: all he has to do is commit a crime, get arrested, and head off to a nice warm jail cell for the winter. But Soapy's best laid plans come to nothing, as his increasingly desperate attempts to get arrested end in farcical failure.

Henry uses a very simple linear narrative in telling Soapy's story, and with good reason. Soapy's quest for a warm jail cell for the winter is kind of like a pilgrim's progress in reverse. He has a clear goal in mind and a very simple idea for achieving it. Henry could've chosen to tell the story in flashback, with a rueful Soapy reflecting on his experiences from prison. But that would've robbed Soapy's tale of its immediacy. The onset of winter injects an element of urgency into Soapy's quest. And that sense of urgency would've been lost if Henry had chosen to tell the story in any other way.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There is nothing particularly unusual about the structure of the story "The Cop and the Anthem."  Indeed, its structure is fairly straight-forward.  The tale is told in linear, chronological fashion; that is, events in the story happen in the order in which they actually happen to the character involved (no real flashbacks, just him remembering things on occasion.)  It's fairly standard...if you look, you'll see that the name "Soapy" is within the first few words of each paragraph.

That said, it is also slightly episodic in that each of Soapy's encounters is kind of neatly contained as its own little event in the story.  Little time is spent on the development of each of these into full-fledged elements and each exists only long enough to demonstrate how Soapy's goal of being arrested is thwarted.

It is a fairly strait-forward piece of writing, no less effective for it.


Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial