Richard Cory Essay, Research Paper
In “Richard Cory”, Edwin Arlington Robinson explores the deception of
appearances. Richard Cory was a wealthy man, admired and envied by those who
consider themselves less fortunate than he. Seemingly, Richard Cory was the model of
success, dignity, and wealth. A standard to which every man was measured. However,
Richard Cory didn’t have everything; the desire to live. Through Richard Cory, Robinson
illustrates how appearances can be deceiving and how depression and despair is not
confined to the “people on the pavement” (line 2).
Cory’s portrait is drawn for us by a representative man, who depicts him as
“imperially slim,” (line 4) “a gentleman from sole to crown,” (line 3) and “richer than a
king” (line 9). Cory is immediately elevated from the ordinary man to a position often
associated with monarchy. This contrast serves as the primary tone of the poem.
Nowhere are we given direct evidence of Cory’s real character; we are given only the
comments of the people about him, except for his last act, taking his own life. Ironically,
Cory’s suicide brings about a reversal of the roles in the poem. Cory is suddenly
dethroned and the people are correspondingly elevated. The people “worked, and waited
for the light,” (line 13) but they went on living, showing the strength to endure. This
suggests a spiritual sustenance of greater value within the people. Cory, wealthy as
he was, did not live; instead, he “put a bullet through his head” (line 16) on “one calm
summer night” (line 15). “Calm” (line 15) to the people, not to Cory. The “people on the
pavement” (line 2) are shown that depression and despair isn’t always attributed to social
class or material wealth; it can affect anyone. The once “clean favoured” (line 4) and
“admirably schooled” (line 10) Richard Cory is demoted to a human character. A real
person with problems like any other.
The repetition in the poem helps to emphasize this point. The frequent use
of “And” (lines 5,6,9,10,14,15) truly underscores the irony in the poem. Robinson
bombards the reader with the notion that Richard Cory has everything anyone could want.
The reader becomes immersed in Richard Cory’s wonderful life. Through this language,
the reader experiences along with the people, the amazement of Cory’s death. And
eventually, both the reader and the people discover their false conclusions about Richard
Cory. Robinson succeeds in making a memorable point, elegantly.
The poem also contains a meter of abab with five accented syllables per line which
supplements the idea that these people didn’t bother to familiarize themselves with the
deeper Richard Cory. It maintains a lighter feel right up until his death. This quality
serves to emphasize the unexpectedness of Cory’s death as the reader expects a happy
ending to go along with a relatively happy poem up until that point.
The details of Richard Cory in the poem only deal with his external qualities. All
of those who knew Richard Cory, believed that he was standard to which everyone should
strive to be like. Belief, ironically was the one thing the people had; and the one thing
Richard Cory lacked. Blinded by images of great material wealth, the people failed to see
that Richard Cory was spiritually bankrupt. The very things that served to give Richard
Cory the status that he had attained also reveal the inner emptiness that led him to take his
Robinson, Edwin Arlington. “Richard Cory.” Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing. Edward V. Roberts and Henry E. Jacobs. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1998. 484-85