Soapy, the central character in O'Henry's story "The Cop and the Anthem," is a homeless man in New York City who reasons that if he could only get himself arrested, he would be imprisoned on Blackwell's Island, where he would be assured of housing, warmth, and the satisfaction of his basic needs. Soapy, who is a fictional character, is a proud man who has thought his scheme through deeply; he scorns the availability of charity because of the necessity of humbling himself to receive it, and estimates that, by making himself a victim of the law, he will receive the same amenities without having to undergo the requisite "humiliation of spirit."
Soapy, though homeless, does not speak or act like one would expect a homeless man would, and he is amazing inept at getting himself arrested. Soapy tries various ruses to make himself a nuisance, but his luck is singularly bad, and something untoward always happens to prevent him from achieving his objective. Among other things, Soapy eats at a restaurant, and, when he has consumed an enormous meal, reveals that he cannot pay the bill, but instead of calling the police, the restaurant owner summons some waiters and has Soapy tossed out on the pavement on his ear. Soapy also tries to harrass a virtuous-looking woman, only to find her actually desirous of his attentions, and he throws a brick through a window, but the police will not consider him a suspect because of his cultured demeanor. All in all, Soapy is a comical character, homeless, smart, and bumbling. The irony of his situation is that it is only when he gives up his quest to be incarcerated that he gets his wish and is arrested for loitering, or, in effect, doing absolutely nothing.