The Cop and the Anthem

by O. Henry

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What is the characterization in the story "The Cop and the Anthem"?    

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There are two methods of creating and developing characters that are employed by authors:  

1. direct characterization, a statement by the author of the character's traits
2. indirect characterization, which involves the portrayal of a character's personality through

  • his or her actions
  • his or her thoughts, feelings, words, and appearance
  • another character's observations and reactions.  Indirect characterization involves the reader's ability to put together clues and figure out the character's personality.

In O. Henry's "The Cop and the Anthem," Soapy's character deveopment occurs beginning with the narrator's statements (direct characterization) such as 

Soapy had confidence in himself from the lowest buttton of his vest upward. 

Five blocks Soapy travelled before his courage permitted him to woo capture again.

The conjunction of Soapy's receptive state of mind and the influences about the old church wrought a sudden and wonderful change in his soul.

Further, Soapy is developed through his thoughts, actions, and speech and the reactions of others (indirect characterization). For instance, Soapy has no great "hibernatorial ambitions," but he does hope to go jail "on the Island" for the winter months and remain warm. So, he walks up Broadway to a "glittering cafe," hoping to enter, order an expensive meal, and then be arrested for not being able to pay the bill, thereby being sent to the Island. But, he is rejected by the head waiter, who spots his ragged pants.

After his first idea fails, Soapy throws a cobblestone through the window of a shop. When the police asks where the man who has committed this crime has gone, Soapy candidly admits, 

"Don't you figure out that I might have had something to do with it?"

But the policeman refuses to believe Soapy (another character's reactions). So, he enters another restaurant and eats heartedly. After his meal, Soapy admits that he has no money, but instead of being arrested, he is manhandled and thrown into the street. Soapy's further revised plans then turn in his flirting with a woman in hopes that she will scream and cause him to be arrested. But, again Soapy fails because the woman is a street walker and thinks he wishes to have her services. So, he "danced, howled, raved, and otherwise disturbed the welkin." But, when the policeman on the beat arrives, he thinks that Soapy is "one of them Yale lads celebrating" the win over Hartford College.

Now, Soapy remains defeated as he  steals a man's umbrella; however, it is not really the man's umbrella, so the "ex-umbrella man retreated."  Disgusted that he cannot get himself arrested, Soapy mutters as he walks, and he throws the umbrella away.  However, when he hears an organist playing an anthem, Soapy recalls his earlier life and vows to "pull himself out of the mire." But, at this point, a policeman grabs him, asking "What are you doin' here?" When Soapy replies, "Nothin'," ironically, he is arrested and sentenced to the Island.


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