The Cop and the Anthem Discussion Questions

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

If you are trying to teach your students about O. Henry or the nature of the twist ending he was so famous for, 'The Cop and the Anthem' is a good story for you. This lesson offers discussion questions to help students get as much as possible out of their read.

Discussing The Cop and the Anthem

Are you teaching a unit on O. Henry or on the short story overall? You are probably spending plenty of time talking about the twist ending as well as some of the other literary devices and traditions in this genre. One great story that you might want to focus on is The Cop and the Anthem.

This is the tale of Soapy, a homeless man who is trying to get arrested so that he can have a warm place to stay during the cold New York winter. All of his efforts to get locked up fail, however. Then, just when he resolves to turn his life around, he ends up arrested for something he did not even mean to do wrong.

To help your students get as much as they can out of their reading of this story, you will probably want to have some strong class discussions in which students are able to learn from each other. The questions in this lesson will help guide such a discussion. These questions are intentionally open ended, designed to prompt students toward doing original thinking about O. Henry's text.

Questions About Characters

Here, you will find questions that will prompt strong discussions about the characters in this story.

  • How would you characterize Soapy as a person at the beginning of the story? What are the major things that motivate him, and how does he behave as a result?
  • What impact to the things that happen over the course of the story start to have on Soapy's character, and how do we start to see him changing?
  • Describe the changes you can see in Soapy's character by the end of the story. What leads to these changes? Do you consider them realistic? Why or why not?
  • If the story were to keep going, how do you think Soapy might change or evolve given the ending of the story.
  • Describe the different police officers Soapy encounters. How would you describe them as individuals, and what are they like overall as a group?
  • How are the police officers similar to and different from each other? What about similar to and different from Soapy?
  • Which character or characters in this story can you identify with the most, and why? What does this identification help you understand about the character?

Questions About Plot

These questions will assist your students in talking about the story's plot.

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