Edwin Arlington Robinson’s “Richard Cory,” is anarrative poem about a sophisticated man who appears to be the desire of thepeople having wealth and stature but then, unbeknownst to these people, hecommits suicide. Robinson’s poem displays a covetous mindset through anoverworked middle class struggling to make a better life, yet they lack contentmentwithin themselves through their covetous view of Richard Cory. In addition, thenarrator speaks of Richard Cory’s abrupt suicide to remind others theirsituation is not as hopeless as it seems. In his poem, Robinson’s use of thenarrator’s expression, sociological view, and metaphor portray the theme of howpeople cannot see the needs of others because they blind to their covetousdesires.Throughout the poem, the narrator’s expression presentsa hopeless view developed by the people in comparison to the man they covetafter, whom eventually commits suicide. The narrator expresses the view of thepeople by saying, “we people on the pavement looked at him” (35); thus givingthe impression that Richard Cory is grander than he actually is.
Robinson’s referenceto “pavement” adds to the diminished value the people have of themselves andfurther blinds them to see the needs of a man who desires more than asuperficial relationship. Additionally, as the people “looked at him” (35), itgives the impression they look at Richard Cory with contempt instead ofunderstanding him or welcoming him as a friend; further demonstrating themisguided, sociological view the people developed through covetousness. Robinson develops a sociological view through thenarrator by distinguishing the economic inequalities between the people andRichard Cory. This view is expressed as the narrator indignantly states, “andwent without the meat, and cursed the bread” (35) because the people grumbledabout their conditions to barely afford the basics (bread) while Richard Coryenjoyed all the fancies (meat) of life.
Their dissatisfaction is revealed asthey “cursed” what they had, which fostered their covetous mindset as theirconditions appeared to remain status quo. Their unfortunate view prevents themfrom finding hope in their situation, in which Robinson’s use of metaphordemonstrates the coveted desire the people sought after in a better life.Finally, Robinson employs metaphor by demonstrating howthe people slogged through their mundane lives as the narrator explains, “soon we worked, and waited for the light” (35).
Here, Robinson equates “light” toa better life as if it would never come through all their toils. In their bestefforts, it would seem the people are either lazy or complete the bare minimumas they do not appear to go above or beyond to receive a promotion or higherwages. Furthermore, these attributes contribute to the coveted mindset andpossibly reduced the ability for people to establish a better relationship withRichard Cory. Ultimately, the people’s covetous mentality blinded them untilthe suicide of Richard Cory, which allowed them to find hope in theirsituation.In conclusion, Richard Cory’s suicide was preventablehad the people not allowed their covetous desires to blind them. Robinson’s useof words demonstrates how the people became blinded to the needs of others,over a period of time, by coveting what they did not have instead of learningcontentment. Furthermore, Robinson reveals a self-centered, apathetic societywho appear hopeless in their toils to achieve the better life as the one livedby Richard Cory.
Works CitedRobinson, Edwin A. “Richard Cory.” TheChildren of the Night.
Forgotten Books. 2012.