ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Edwin Arlington Robinson's "Richard Cory"

Updated on July 18, 2018
Maya Shedd Temple profile image

After I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962, poetry became my passion.

Edwin Arlington Robinson

Source

Introduction and Text of "Richard Cory"

Readers are indeed shocked when in the final stanza they are accosted with the line delivering the message that Cory one night, "Went home and put a bullet through his head." The question provoked by this act does not appear to have a definite answer, but it does simply imply that despite outward appearances and wealth, one may feel so empty inside as to prefer death to life.

The speaker represents all those neighbors who thought Richard Cory's life was far superior to their own. However, it becomes clear that they were just judging a book by its cover; could they have read the book they might have discovered the specifics of Ricard Cory's existence. But for purposes of the poem, only the mystery is necessary; indeed, it is preferable because life is full of such mysteries.

Richard Cory

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
"Good-morning," and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich—yes, richer than a king—
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

Reading of Robinson's "Richard Cory"

Commentary

Robinson's rather uncomplicated poem, "Richard Cory," portrays its subject, a rich, well respected man, who shockingly commits suicide.

First Stanza: The Richness of Literal Language

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

Although the poem employs no poetic device such as metaphor, symbol, or simile, its use of language is rich and full. The opening line exemplifies the richness: if Richard Cory "went down town," then he had been up town. Being up town indicates a neighborhood where the well-to-do lived. This dichotomy continues throughout the poem: a dichotomy of contrast between the wealthy and the less well off.

The poem's speaker is one of the less well off, those who thought of Richard Cory as being "richer than as king." Those "on the pavement" indicate the working class, apartment dwellers who struggled to survive, while Richard Cory moved in the circle of ladies and gentlemen—not just men and women who work hard for their meagre pittance.

Cory was a gentleman "from sole to crown"—from his feet to his head. "Crown" is a pun, meaning top of the head as well as the head ornament of a king. "Crown" is, in fact, the only term in the poem that offers a slightly figurative use.

Second Stanza: A Nice Man

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
"Good-morning," and he glittered when he walked.

Despite his being so rich and kingly, Richard Cory was still a very nice human being. He did not snub people; he engaged pleasantly with them. The speaker, who is obviously obsessed with Richard Cory's status, and no doubt a bit envious, would have expected Cory's behavior to have been arrogant. But the opposite was true.

Still Cory's appearance dazzled those who encountered him. He made the common folk a little uneasy when he spoke to them, even though he was affable and friendly and seemed to be happy.

Third Stanza: The Vacuousness of Envy

And he was rich—yes, richer than a king—
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

The speaker, because of his nervous admiration of Cory, exaggerates Cory's wealth by claiming he was "richer than a king." In addition to being financially successful, Cory was well educated. He possessed knowledge and he also possessed the grace with which to behave properly.

The speaker and his milieu concluded that Cory possessed everything a human being needed to be successful. They envied him. They wanted to be Richard Cory.

Fourth Stanza: Looks Can Be Deceiving

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

In the two opening lines of the last stanza of the poem, once again differences between the two socio-economic classes are dramatized. The working, struggling folk "on the pavement" worked and struggled so that one day they too could be like Richard Cory. They worked, struggled, and complained.

Then the irony of their complaining unfolds when this paragon of virtue that they had idolized and idealized "went home and put a bullet through his head." This act told them that looks can, indeed, be deceiving.

Dramatizing a Truth

The poem, "Richard Cory," dramatizes a truth about life with all its appearances, contradictory evidence, and mysterious behaviors. The poet has accomplished this fine achievement in a poem without one metaphor, simile, or other poetic device. The literal language is rich and deep and unnuanced. It does its job like the people on the pavement, and it does it without gloss and glitter.

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes

Comments

Submit a Comment

No comments yet.

working

This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

Show Details
Necessary
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Features
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Marketing
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Statistics
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)