The Cop and the Anthem

by O. Henry

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How can we explain the point of view in O.Henry's "The Cop and the Anthem"?  

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The point of view in O. Henry's short story "The Cop and the Anthem" is third-person omniscient. The story is told in the third person (as Soapy, the main character, is referred to by his name rather than with "I," or the first person). The narrator is omniscient because the story reveals not only Soapy's movements but also his innermost thoughts. For example, O. Henry writes, "Soapy’s mind now realized the fact. The time had come. He had to find some way to take care of himself during the cold weather." The narrator has access to what Soapy is thinking and to his motivations. For example, the narrator knows that Soapy hopes to spend three months on Blackwell's Island in a prison to escape the cold weather, and the narrator understands that Soapy does not want to go to a city shelter because they will pry and ask him questions about his life. Only an omniscient or all-knowing narrator could understand these details about Soapy. 

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The point of view in O. Henry's humorously ironic short story, "The Cop and the Anthem" is omniscient narrator.  The narrator tells the story in third person, but he is also aware of all the thoughts and feelings of any of the characters.  This use of omniscient narrator is effective for O. Henry as he was a very well-traveled man who met characters from all walks of life.

The use of omniscient narrator is very important to O. Henry's tale.  For, it is with the omniscient knowledge of Soapy's motivation for getting put into prison and his other motivations that so quickly contribute to the humor.  For instance, Soapy rejecta charity because he knows that he will have to repay for it and be lectured.


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What is the point of view in "The Cop and the Anthem"?

While the elevated style of O. Henry's narrator is imitative of the former gentleman, Soapy, and lends irony to the story of a homeless man who seeks shelter for the winter, the point of view is omniscient narrator because this narrator knows what the characters are thinking and feeling. For instance, O. Henry's omniscient narrator reveals what law enformcement feels after Soapy breaks a store window, "The policeman's mind refused to accept Soapy even as a clue" when Soapy admits to having thrown the rock through a store window.  After this, the all-knowing narrator continues,   

Five blocks Soapy travelled before his courage permitted him to woo capture again. This time the opportunity presented what he fatuously termed to himself a "clinch."

So, while Soapy connives and manipulates whomever he can or whatever situation possible, he fails at all his attempts. Therefore, the narrator tells the readers, he resolves to "pull himself" up again after hearing "an anthem"; for he is moved, and seeks to redeem himself by resurrecting his old goals and become a better man, a gentle man of ambition with "immaculate thoughts" who is "somebody in the world."

Certainly, the use of the omniscient narrator lends a certain sympathy for Soapy, whose heart is opened to readers through the knowledge of this narrator tries so hard to find a warm home for himself in the forthcoming months.  

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