The Cop and the Anthem by O. Henry

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What are Soapy's crimes?

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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  • He has a good dinner at a fancy restaurant and doesn't pay for it. We get the impression that Soapy's done this before as he seems to know exactly how the scam works. (Or should work, at any rate). The idea is that, when he doesn't pay for the meal, the waiters will call for the police, he'll be arrested, go before a judge, and then—voila!—he'll be sent to a nice warm prison cell for the winter. But the head waiter takes one look at Soapy's shabby clothes and shoes and turns him out the door before he's had a chance to sit down;
  • Soapy throw a big stone through a shop window. Surely, a cop must arrest him now! But when an officer of the law turns up, he flat-out refuses to believe that Soapy could've broken the window. After all, criminals who break windows tend to run off straight away; what they don't do is hang around and wait for the cops to arrive;
  • Soapy tries to pull the restaurant scam again. This time, he's able to get his foot in the door and has himself a slap-up meal. But even after Soapy tells the waiters he doesn't have any money, they still don't call the cops; they simply throw him out into the street;
  • Then Soapy tries a different tack. He approaches a young woman browsing at a shop window display. The plan is that she'll get spooked by what she thinks is a weirdo and complain to the beat cop standing nearby. But instead of running off, the woman‚ much to Soapy's exasperation, takes his arm and smiles. It's not spelled out explicitly, but the suggestion is that the woman is a prostitute who's glad to have found another customer;
  • Soapy's getting increasingly desperate now, but with the winter coming on, he can't give up his quest for a warm place to sleep just yet. So outside a theater he starts shouting and hollering, pretending to be drunk. But the cops still won't lay a glove of him. They ignore him, thinking he's just a harmless college kid in high spirits;
  • Finally, Soapy steals a man's umbrella. But we get the impression that the man stole it himself and so naturally doesn't want to get the police involved. So he walks off, leaving Soapy angry and dejected. His plan seems to have failed, miserably.

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Domenick Franecki eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Soapy commits (or tries to commit) several non-violent crimes in his attempt to be sent to jail on Blackwell's Island for the winter. First, he tries to eat a meal at an expensive restaurant (though he cannot pay for it), but he is thrown out by the waitstaff. Then, he throws a brick through the window of a shop on 6th Avenue, but a cop does not think Soapy did it. He later eats at a less expensive restaurant and cannot pay for it, but the waiters just throw him out of the place. He attempts to speak to a young woman, thinking she will call the cops, but she just takes his arm.

Later, he yells outside a theater and tries to swipe a man's umbrella, but the man and admits that he had found the umbrella in morning in a restaurant and hurries away. Ironically, Soapy is arrested when he is standing outside the light of an old church, loitering only to make the decision to change his ways forever.

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William Delaney eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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O. Henry wanted to have Soapy commit a series of petty crimes in the hope of getting arrested and sentenced to spend the harsh winter months in jail. The author saw that these petty crimes would need to have variety in order to keep the reader interested. Soapy could not just keep going into restaurants and then revealing he could not pay for what he had eaten and drunk. One of the...

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