The Cop & the Anthem (1904)


  1. What is the setting (time, place, circumstances) of the story? How do you know?
  2. Explain the significance of the possessive pronoun his in the phrase “his bench.”
  3. Why is Soapy moving uneasily on his bench? How do you know?
  4. Soapy is not interested in exotic European getaways or trips to Palm Beach. What does “the Island” offer him?
  5. Why doesn’t Soapy want to receive charity? Be specific. Why is it “better to be a guest of the law” according to Soapy?
  6. On his way home Soapy finds himself outside of a church. What is happening inside the church. Be specific.
  7. What is the theme of this story?
  8. What is the mood/tone of this story?
  9. What literary devices does O. Henry use in this story? (foreshadowing, irony, metaphor, simile, personification, etc.)
  10. “The Cop and the Anthem” was published over a hundred years ago. Do you think it’s still relevant? Why or why not?
  11. Could this story unintentionally contribute to negative stereotypes about homeless people, or people in who repeatedly go to jail? Why or why not?
  12. Do you think Soapy is, or could be, a “good” person? (To answer this question, you first need to decide what your criteria for being a good person is.)

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