An Explication of Edwin Arlington Robinson’s, “Richard Cory”

Topics: Poetry, Social class, Stanza Pages: 3 (970 words) Published: October 9, 2008
In the poem “Richard Cory”, Edwin Arlington Robinson depicts a “grass is greener” presumption with a twist. The speaker in this poem, representing the working class, tells about a gentleman by the name of Richard Cory; a man everyone admired. This poem is an ironic illustration of how the “glitter[y]” (l. 8) illusion that wealth and stature projects in ones appearance does not always mean the individual has internal happiness. In the first stanza, Robinson methodically distinguishes the differences between Richard Cory and the working class. First, in lines 1 and 2, a general social distinction is made. “Whenever Richard Cory went downtown, / We people on the pavement looked at him;” (l. 1-2) The first line implies that Richard Cory does not live downtown, which in and of itself appears to hold little importance. However, the second line is the first real indication that Cory holds, in the minds of others, a higher status, which is demonstrated when the speaker, or townsmen, represent themselves as “…people on the pavement…” (l. 2). The “people” are the townsmen and “pavement” is literally something walked on. This choice of words gives the reader insight into the social differences between the two from the perspective of the townsmen. In lines 3 and 4, Robinson exemplifies Cory’s appearance and gives an idea of royalty, further setting him apart from the common man. “He was a gentleman from sole to crown, / Clean favored, and imperially slim” (l. 3). The context of “crown” in line 3 refers to the top of his head, but Robinson chooses his words to give Richard Cory an aristocratic quality, further demonstrated by his choice of “imperially slim” as a description. By the end of the first stanza, it is clear that Richard Cory is recognized by the working class as someone residing in a higher social class. In the first 2 lines of the second stanza, Robinson eradicates any misconception that Richard Cory may be arrogant. The lines, “And he was always...

Cited: Rich, Adrienne. “Richard Cory” Literature And The Writing Process. Ed. Elizabeth McMahan,
Susan X. Day, and Robert Funk. 7th ed. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005.
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