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The poem “Richard Cory” by Edwin Arlington Robinson tells the readers about the gap in social class between people and that outward appearances are not always what they seem to be. In other word, what you see on the outside might just different from what you’ll see in the inside; don’t judge a book by its cover. The story itself is about a wealthy man who commits suicide, and is being told from a third person’s point of view as a citizen in the town who watches his everyday life. The main points in this poem are the speaker’s circumstances, the language he uses, Richard Cory’s condition, and the irony of the story.
The speaker of this poem seems to be someone from a low level class, as “We people on the pavement looked at him” (Robinson 2) states, and the speaker also apparently has a job that demands them to be dirty as shown, “Clean favored” (Robinson 4) implies. “So on we worked, and waited for the light”, “And went without the meat, and cursed the bread” (Robinson 17-18), reveal that the speaker is also a hard worker and has a very tiring job. Even with that, they still can’t afford to buy meat and decent bread for their meal. Since, the speaker is using a third person’s point of view, that means most people are in agreement with his opinion and it isn’t his only thoughts.
In this poem, the speaker is using everyday language that is easy to understand, although there are some words that are odd, like “admirably schooled” (Robinson 10). When someone is very rich, it’s just usual for them to go to school and/or get some kind of education. However, the word “admirably” (Robinson 10) implies that the speaker wasn’t an educated person, and thus it was rather admirable for them that someone is able to go to school. The phrase “waited for the light” (Robinson 13). rather than just light that would mean time to work, apparently the light in this phrase is used to indicates hope.
The first, second and third stanza tell the readers about Richard Cory, or at least who he is from an outsider’s point of view. Those lines clearly state that Richard Cory is a wealthy man, and the speaker even goes as far as compare him to the king (Robinson 9). He is also a polite man that never treats other people differently despite the social status. Cory is also someone who dresses well and is able to place himself in public and never show his wealthy off. Other than outward appearances, Robinson never gave a clue about Cory’s personalities and he also never gave the readers a glimpse about Cory’s personal life. Like his relationship with his family or even his lovers, if he had any. People seem to be admiring him deeply and they’re even actually rather envious of him and wish to be in his place (Robinson 12). Despite all that, Cory ends up committing a suicide (Robinson 16).
The irony in that is, Cory does have everything a man could ask for, but apparently all that makes him an outcast to the people in town. People seem to really admire him to a level where they think of him as someone who is far above them, and they think about themselves as someone who is unworthy of his attention. “But still he fluttered pulses when he said, “Good-morning,”” (Robinson 7-8) clearly state that people feel really privileged when he just simply greets them on the street, even the sight of him walking is special for them “and he glittered when he walked” (Robinson 8). It’s almost like the people in the town do not think about him as a human most of the time, because he is too perfect to be one and only then remember that he is a human just like the rest of them when he talked. Their self-conscious attitudes toward him unconsciously make him an outcast. He might be not an outcast because he is the lowest of the low in the social status, because he is far from it; but an outcast is still an outcast, be it because of people’s too high regards, and whether they are conscious of it or no.
In this poem, Robinson is trying to say that sometimes something is not as it appears to be. People in the town as the speaker has said, clearly assume that because Cory has everything, that means he’s happy. Then he ends his own life, which means whatever it was that he had been through must be really hard for him and chose death as a way out. This is also means that money can’t bring you happiness, if what happened to Cory is anything to go by. There are many meanings that Robinson included in such a short poem, and his using of everyday language was somehow amplified the meaning of the ending of the poem. This poem is truly a brilliant piece of artwork.
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