The poem “Richard Cory” by Edwin Arlington Robinson is a very impacting poem. The poem is about a man named Richard, he was a very rich man, very good looking, everyone wanted to be him. One summer night Richard committed suicide. This man that seemed to have it all, didn’t want to live his life. The working class watched him every day, thinking about how bad they wanted to be him. They thought Richard had it all because he had money, thinking there was no way this man could be unhappy. But they were horribly wrong. In this unexpected poem, Robinson uses each stanza to enhance his main idea. Robinson’s poem portrays that those outward appearances are not always what they seem.
In stanza one, Robinson uses different literary devices to show that the people of lower-class thought Richard Cory was like a king. He uses alliteration, “Whenever Richard Cory went downtown / We people on the pavement looked at him:” (L 1-2). This alliteration was used to emphasize just how different Richard was from all of them. Richard did not live in the same town as these working people, as it is told to us in line one “Whenever Richard Cory went downtown” (L1).
Whenever, he went downtown, meaning that Richard did not live in the same town as the working class. But when he did go downtown, the people stared at who they thought was like a king. In lines three and four, Robinson gives more of an introduction on the main character, Richard. Robinson uses imagery to give an idea of what Richard looks like, “He was a gentleman from sole to crown, Clean favored, and imperially slim.” (L 3-4). The final line of this stanza suggests that he was a morally upright fellow, and the word ‘imperially’ implies that he carries a sense of grace and regality about his person. Overall this stanza helps emphasize the difference between the working people and the rich guy, Richard. To the people, this man was like a king.
In stanza two, Robinson gives us a look at how Richard was as a person. “And he was always quietly arrayed / and he was always human when he talked;” (L 5-6), the repetition of “And he was always”, shows the consistency and warmth of Richard. “He was always human when he talked” these words inline six shows that Richard talked to the lower class with respect. He never made them feel any less than he was, this shows the type of humility Richard had despite his wealth and good looks. More of this stanza contributes to the idea that everyone wanted to be him, “But still he fluttered pulses” (L7), this line automatically gives the reader a picture of Richard walking past people, having young ladies catch their breath and young gentlemen wishing to be him. All this contributing to the idea that not everything is what it seems.
Robinson continues this idea in stanza 3, where he emphasizes once again that Richard Cory was so rich and amazing that everyone wanted his place, everyone wanted to be him. Robison really likes to show how much the people envied Richard, and how bad everyone wanted his amazing life, or what seemed an amazing life. In stanza three, Robison states “yes, richer than a king —” (L9), the assertive “yes” and the metaphor “richer than a king” really catches the reader’s attention. These lines keep contributing to the idea that Richard Cory’s life seemed to be so amazing, he was so rich and had everything he ever wanted, how could he not be happy? In lines eleven and twelve it reads “In fine, we thought that he was everything – To make us wish that we were in his place”. Again, Robison is letting it be known that the working class wished to have Richard’s life. But also, it gives the first insight to thinking that everything was not as great as it seemed, “In fine, we thought he was everything”, the words “thought” and “was” gives the reader an instant feeling that something big was coming, something did not seem right.
As the poem continues to flow, the reader comes across the difficulties of the working class in stanza four. In lines thirteen and fourteen Robinson talks about the struggles the working class faced to further enhance the idea of why they wanted to be Richard. There is a big difference between life led by Richard Cory and the life led by the people who looked up to him. “So, on we worked and waited for the light” (L13). They continued to work and struggle to get enough money to survive. “And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;”, and even though they continued to work, they still didn’t have enough.
Even the word ‘cursed’ stands out here, as it seems ill-fitting after the descriptions of Richard. While Richard allegedly enjoyed his good life, with his piles of money and good looks. Robinson was extremely smart on how he continued to enhance how bad these poor people wanted to have Richard’s life. They wanted so bad to be him, they wanted his money, they wanted everything he had. Richard had the easy life, he didn’t have to work or go without food. Richard didn’t have to worry about anything.
In lines fifteen and sixteen we learn that Richard took his own life. Robison uses irony in these last two sentences “And Richard Cory, one calm summer night, went home and put a bullet through his head.” (L15-16) In these lines, we see the irony, which is a huge part of this poem. The irony of a rich man who was supposed to have everything he wanted taking his own life. No one would think of taking their own lives on a beautiful summer night. Especially not Richard Cory, the man that had it all. While the workers were wishing to be him, Richard seemed to be suffering in silence. The poem never mentions any family, or friends for Richard, the poem itself takes a step into showing that Richard’s loneliness leads him to take his own life. Richard Cory had it all, all the money, the glory, the good looks. Everything anyone has ever wanted but being lonely is a hard thing to go through. All the money in the world could not make a lonely person happy.
Richard Cory was the man to be, he had all the money others wanted, he had all the looks that men would die for and that took every woman’s breath away. But it seems Richard was missing something, Richard was not happy. Everyone wished to be him, without knowing what his life was really like. Everyone thought that because he had all the materialistic things and the perfect looks, that he was almost obligated to be happy. But in the end the people are left with great confusion, the guy they thought was like a king, did not want his life any longer, to the point where he decided to end it. People that day learned, that outward appearances are not always what they seem.