Analysis and Explication: Richard Cory

“Richard Cory” is one of the most popular poems of Edward Arlington Robinson. He wrote the poem in 1897 when most of the people in our society were suffering from poverty. The speaker of this poem is from the lower level of the society where they always look to the upper level people and try to find their own images. On the other hand, the upper level people try to find their happiness in the lower level people. But the gap between the two types of people is wide enough that does not fulfill their needs to become happy. The imagery of this poem is based on the view of the society in the nineteenth century (when the poem was written,) where poor people were too poor and rich people were too rich. Being rich or poor does not define the meaning of happiness.

“Richard Cory” is basically a narrative poem where the author tries to connect a number of things of our society especially the way to becoming happy from the perspective of rich and poor people (“Richard Cory – Analysis”). To illustrate the point of view, Robinson divides the poem into four parts. In the first part, the speaker tells us about a person named Richard Cory who comes to the town to visit the poor people. He is a rich person in the eyes of the town people. In this poem when the speaker claims that “He was a gentleman from sole to crown, / Clean favored, and imperially slim” (1 l 3, 4), he actually means that Richard Cory is a royal and unique person among the people in town. When he arrives in town everyone looks at him and is surprised how beautiful he looks. Here it is clearly noticeable that the people from the lower level always admire the people of higher level. The difference between rich and poor is always visible. It can be defined by their outlook, behavior and the ways of living.

In fact, the Narrator talks more about Richard Cory in the second part of the poem. By saying “And still he fluttered pulses when he said, / “Good-morning,” and he glittered when he walked” (2 l 3, 4) the speaker actually means the way Richard Cory behaves with the town people. He is an intelligent as well as a delicate person to the people. He never leaves any choice to think that he is a rich person when he talks with them. But the town people always know that he is a wealthy person and has everything in this world that he needs to have. On the other hand, he has everything, but he comes to meet the poor people and talks with them nicely with his best expressions. But why in this world would a rich person come to the poor people to spend his valuable time with them? That raises the question. The answer to the question is that he is a rich person and has everything he needs but does not have the wealth of other’s company that the town people always have.

But the town people do not recognize their valuable wealth that they have all the time with them. This point gets clear in the third part of the poem. When the speaker claims that “In fine, we thought that he was everything / To make us wish that we were in his place” (3 l 3, 4). He literally describes the town people’s thoughts about him and hope about becoming the person as he is right now in front of them. The difference is so powerful that they treat him as “Richer than a king” (3 l 1) who has all the qualities to become that person. He is so bright in their eyes that they always find him in their thoughts and dreams. Although the town people are poor, they do not stop dreaming about their future. When they see Richard Cory, they find their future in him. They can imagine every possible thing in him. On the other side, Richard Cory finds his lost world when he comes to visit the town people. He tries to get closer to the people but the symbol of “Rich and Poor” always creates the concrete wall between him and the town people. Without any doubt we can say that whether a person is rich or poor, that person cannot become happy unless he or she is satisfied with the life he or she has.

However, the town people always struggle to make their life better. The picture is visible in the fourth part of the poem. Here the speaker tells that “So on we worked, and waited for the light, / And went without the meat, and cursed the bread” (4 l 1, 2). By telling that he actually describes the situation of people in the town that they work hard and wait for the salary which is not enough for their living. Their life is very difficult where Richard Cory is only a role model that they always want to be. The reality of life always flows in the opposite directions that they cannot cross their limits. A gifted life they get, which is named to be struggled from the day they come to this world. They work hard and hard but cannot manage their regular food. Then they curse their life and become unhappy. At last, one summer night, they heard that Richard Cory kills himself by putting a bullet through his head. This news of his death shock them that he leaves them forever, but the actual reason of his death, maybe, remains unknown to them that he was a lonely person. The power of depression takes his life away from this dramatic world. But the scenario of his death remains unclear in this poem. Besides the town people do not expect this kind of death from a person like him who had everything especially when it comes to get the daily food in a proper way. For them he had everything to live his life properly so the death of him was uncertain to them. So the point gets clearer that no one is happy here in life because they want to be someone else that they cannot be.

In conclusion, this poem actually leads us to realize that the way we are living in this earth is not perfect for us. There is always something that we are looking to have and to achieve. From both perspective of Richard Cory and the town people define one thing that we human cannot be satisfied with what we have. We always ignore the wealth that we already have and search for more. That makes our life miserable and pathetic. Wealth cannot bring a person happiness. “Richard Cory” is the best example for that. The lacking of knowledge to realize the power of togetherness is very common in town people. So the main aspect is that everyone can be happy if they understand the value of their belongings and use their wealth properly. Then happiness is possible in every level of mankind.



Works Cited

“Richard Cory – Analysis.”  StudyMode.  1 Feb. 2001.  Web.  28 Oct. 2014.  <;.

Robinson, Edwin Arlington.  “Richard Cory.”  Literature: A Portable Anthology.  Ed. Janet E. Gardner, Beverly Lawn, Jack Ridl, and Peter Schakel.  New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2013.  533 – 534.  Print.


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