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This is the story of Soapy, a vagabond with a criminal background. Homeless as he is, he goes around the city with a mission to get arrested. What makes Soapy amusing is that his situation is both pitiable and laughable at the same time. The story presents an amusing account of his many attempts and ends on an ironical note as fate plays a mean trick on poor Soapy.
Soapy has no home and lives on a bench in a park. In order to secure a safe and warm place to spend his winter months, he devices a clever plan. He takes a walk through the city in order to cause some trouble and get arrested for it. An arrest would guarantee him a prison cell and some food, which would be better than freezing to death on a park bench.
Soapy’s Attempts to Get Arrested
Soapy begins by trying to get entry into a luxurious cafe. He plans to eat heartily and hopes to get arrested for non-payment of the bill. But even before he can put his plan into action, he is denied entry into the cafe because of the poor state of his clothes.
He then attempts a second mischief. He breaks the glass window of a crockery store and stands there expecting a policeman. But the policeman does not suspect him to have broken the glass and follows someone else instead.
Dismayed at the failure of two attempts, he tries a third time. He eats a meal of beefsteak, doughnuts and pie at a modest restaurant. He is only thrown out but not turned into a police station for his inability to pay the bill. Soapy’s fourth attempt involves him yelling at the top of his voice on a sidewalk. This attempt to draw attention to himself fails as well. The policeman dismisses him as a random lad.
Soapy tries a fifth time. This time he pretends to be stealing a silk umbrella resting outside a cigar store. He hopes to get caught by the umbrella owner and turned to the police. But his luck proves bad here as well because the man admits that he himself picked the umbrella from a restaurant and thinks Soapy is its rightful owner.
The Anthem and Soapy’s Self-Realisation
Dismayed at so many failed attempts, the vagabond makes his way back to the bench which is his only home. On his way, he passes by a church and the organ music sound makes him stop. The notes of the Sabbath Anthem bring back memories of his family, friends and his past life.
The anthem, thus, induces a sudden positive change in him. He thinks of how he tumbled into this life of degradation and aimlessness. At this moment of self-realisation, he resolves to begin his life afresh. He abandons all his plans to go to the prison. Just when the poor, homeless man is all determined to change for good and be a better man, a cop arrives and an argument ensues between them.
At the end, Soapy is sentenced to three months of imprisonment for loitering and misbehaving. But this happens at a time when he had resolved to begin anew. Soapy’s life is one that is full of irony. The meanings of confinement and freedom are totally different for a homeless man like Soapy.
The prison does not curtail his freedom but guarantees safety, warmth and food. His story ends on a similar ironical note as when he understands the true meaning of freedom and purposefulness, he is dumped into a prison cell.