The narrators in Edwin Arlington Robinson’s poem, “Richard Cory”, are a few people who are standing near Cory as he walks down the street. They are going about their business when Richard Cory walks within visual range and is immediately discussed by the narrators. The town in which the story takes place in is essentially small. This sort of scenario would never take place in a larger city simply because there would be several people like Richard Cory, not just one. The people describe Cory as a very important man who is above anything petty, nearly regal. They find Cory to be everything they are not, and everything they desire to be. Richard Cory is a marvelous man who seems to be too good to be true.
The first two lines of the poem suggest Richard Cory’s separation from the ordinary folk who are telling the story. Richard Cory’s presence on the street demands attention as soon as he is noticed. Just by looking at him, a person can tell that he is above everything else around him. The people describe themselves as just “people on the pavement” (591) as though Richard Cory is using some other means of transportation other than walking. Cory “glittered when he walked” (591) which looked to them as if he wasn’t walking at all, just merely gliding to his destination while they view themselves as trudging up and down the same pavement on the way to their meaningless jobs.
The next two lines tell what it is in his natural appearance that sets him off from everyone else around him. Cory is described as “quietly arrayed, always human” (591) which really makes him different from most people because he is a simple man who only speaks with meaning. A large majority of people speak, it seems, simply because they desire to hear the sound of their voice or they have nothing else to say. Richard Cory is obviously not one of these people. Whenever Richard Cory spoke, he did it for a purpose, or he didn’t speak. Consequently, people respected him and it shows in the way the townspeople describe him and behave when they are in his presence. Chances are good that Cory didn’t have many friends in this small community because most of the townsfolk were far too in awe of him to be his friend. There was a sense of Cory’s eventual downfall during these first three stanzas because everything Cory did, seemed to be too good. There is no possible way a normal human could carry himself so perfectly that it would draw the uninterrupted attention of everyone around him. The people telling the story acted as if an alarm had gone off and their idol was passing them by as soon as he was noticed.
The following two lines in Robinson’s poem mention Cory’s demeanor which elevates him even more over his fellow citizens. Cory apparently resembles a man who has no vanity and it appears that he does not desire to be in the spotlight of the town because he is very quiet, almost unsure of whether he deserves such recognition. Cory obviously knows that he is something special, yet he does not desire to be elevated to that level. Cory is also described more completely in the the third line of the third stanza as the people think that he “was everything, To make us wish that we were in his place.” (591) This says quite a bit for the man that Richard Cory was. It is very difficult to find a man so perfect, that people standing on the street observing him do not mention a single flaw. This would be especially true in Cory’s situation living in a small town where one would be almost certain to have one minor flaw worth describing. He is obviously a very humble man, almost too good to be true.
The third stanza further describes the type of man Cory is and why the people who reside in his town think so highly of him. Cory is: “richer than a king and admirably schooled in every grace.” (591) The people want to be in his place. They think that he has everything, that nothing more would ever possibly be obtained from his wonderful life. Then, a single bullet shook the town and ruined the mindsets of the townspeople forever. Their superman, who never did a single thing wrong, had done the unthinkable.
The eventual suicide which takes place at the end of the poem in the fourth stanza is not, or should not be, a surprise. The eventual demise of Cory’s psyche was expected at the end of the poem, he just couldn’t be as perfect as what was described. There had to be something wrong. The townspeople simply assume that what he has going for him in life, would make anyone happy. People are not always what they seem. An extremely wealthy man who was admired and envied by those who knew him little and consider themselves less fortunate, commits suicide. As soon as the last two lines are read, “And Richard Cory, one calm summer night, Went home and put a bullet through his head,” (591) the people telling the story are immediately elevated. The entire poem up until that point their description of Richard Cory’s great life, and how rotten their lives had become. After the smoke clears from the barrel, those people’s lives don’t seem so bad. Richard Cory’s entire life seemed entirely too good to be true, and it was.
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