Edwin Arlington Robinson’s “Richard Cory,” is a narrative poem about a
polished man who appears to be the envy of the people having health, wealth,
and stature but then, unbeknownst to these people, he commits suicide. Robinson’s
poem displays a covetous mindset through an overworked middle class struggling
to make a better life yet they lack contentment within themselves through their
covetous view of Richard Cory. In addition, the narrator speaks of Richard
Cory’s abrupt suicide to remind others their situation is not as hopeless as it
seems. In his poem, Robinson’s use of the narrator’s expression, sociological view,
and metaphor portray the theme of how people cannot see the needs of others
because they are blinded by their own covetous desires.
Throughout the poem,
the narrator’s expression presents a hopeless view developed by the people in
comparison to the man they covet after, whom eventually commits suicide. The
narrator expresses the view of the people by saying, “we people on the
pavement looked at him” (35); thus giving the impression that Richard Cory is
grander than he really is. Robinson’s reference to “pavement” adds to the diminished
value the people have of themselves and further blinds them to see the needs of
a man who desires more than a superficial relationship. Additionally, as the
people “looked at him” (35), it gives the impression they look at Richard Cory
with contempt instead of understanding him or welcoming him in a friendly
manner; further demonstrating the misguided, sociological view the people
developed through covetousness.
Robinson develops a sociological view through the narrator
by distinguishing the economic inequalities between the people and Richard
Cory. This view is expressed as the
narrator indignantly states, “and went without the meat, and cursed the
bread” (35) because the people grumbled about their conditions to barely afford
the basics (bread) while Richard Cory enjoyed all the fancies (meat) of life.
Their dissatisfaction was shown as they “cursed” what they had which fostered
their covetous mindset as their conditions appeared to remain status quo. Their
unfortunate view prevents them from finding hope in their situation, in which
Robinson’s use of metaphor demonstrates the coveted desire the people sought
after in a better life.
Finally, Robinson employs
metaphor by demonstrating how the people slogged through their mundane lives as
the narrator explains, “so on we worked, and waited for the light” (35). Here,
Robinson equates “light” to a better life as if it would never come through all
their toils. In their best efforts, it would seem the people are either lazy or
complete the bare minimum as they do not appear to go beyond that to receive a
promotion or higher wages. Furthermore, these attributes contribute to the
coveted mindset and possibly reduced the ability for people to establish a
better relationship with Richard Cory. Ultimately, the people’s covetous
mentality blinded them until the suicide of Richard Cory, which allowed them to
find hope in their situation.
Richard Cory’s suicide could have been prevented had the people not been
blinded by their own covetous desires. Robinson’s use of 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 learning contentment. Furthermore,
Robinson reveals a self-centered, apathetic society who appear hopeless in
their toils to achieve the better life as the one lived by Richard Cory.
Robinson, Edwin A. “Richard Cory.” The
Children of the Night. Forgotten Books. 2012.