“Richard Cory” Edwin Arlington Robinson “Money can’t buy happiness” is an old saying that echoes through time; however, it seems to echo so softly that it is quite often ignored. People everywhere in search for their fulfillment see money as a fast train leading to their destination of happiness. The envy and the jealousy of the poor and the needy lie with the rich and powerful. Richard Cory is the envy of the whole town. The townspeople look at him as if he had it all. They see his money, feel his power, know his intelligence and not one time do they ever doubt his happiness.
They look at him as more than a mere man, and they desire and long to be looked at in this way. They assume that living like Richard Cory will bring them infinite happiness. The poem seems to indicate that everyone keeps their distance from Mr. Cory. His money does not buy him happiness and it does not bring him friends. Richard Cory led an unbearably lonely life, which is reflected in the very last line of the poem when he commits suicide by shooting himself in the head. “Richard Cory” is an excellent example of didactic poetry. The whole purpose of this poem is to teach a life lesson.
That lesson being that money cannot buy happiness. The poem is an iambic pentameter and consists of four stanzas. Each line contains ten syllables. The rhyming pattern is A, B, A, B. The first three stanzas of the poem describe the subject, while the fourth stanza shocks the reader. In the first stanza of “Richard Cory” the reader becomes aware of the main thrust of the poem that suggests the differences between the wealthy and the less fortunate. The speaker of the poem belongs to the latter class and the poem clearly draws out distinctions between “us” and “him”. In the second line, “We people on the pavement looked at him:” (I. ) suggests a lower class stating how they look up to him as well as merely staring at him. In the third and fourth lines the speaker uses the term “gentleman” which continues the division of economic classes. Then by claiming this gentlemanly quality from “…sole to crown”, (I. 3) the speaker is emphasizing how kingly Cory is. In the second stanza the speaker of the poem is careful to make sure his listeners understand that Richard Cory was just a normal, nice guy. He does not look down on the common folk; he isn’t arrogant; he speaks to people the way the speaker would expect him to. And he was always human when he talked;”. (II. 2) Cory seems very friendly and happy just like the common working-class stiffs, only better looking and richer. The third stanza tells us that Richard Cory is rich, but the speaker also exaggerates Cory’s wealth by saying he is “…richer than a king. ” (III. 1) At this point, the audience knows the speaker is speaking in terms of wealth not personality and a successful life. In the fourth and final stanza the first two lines restate the differences between the two economic classes. As the audience reads on to the final two lines of the poem they are hit with a shock.
Richard Cory, the man who has everything, the man who is everything that these hard working folk want to be—this icon of success and happiness—kills himself. Robinson uses many poetic devices to make his readers feel at one with “Richard Cory. ” A metaphor can be found in the first line of the third stanza. “And he was rich-yes, richer than a king”. (III. 1) “He was rich” is the tenor of the metaphor. “Richer than a king” is the vehicle of the metaphor. “Richard Cory” is also an excellent example of situational irony. What happens at the end of the poem is different from what the reader expects to happen.
Richard Cory’s death comes as a complete shock! Robinson also uses imagery to paint the picture of this handsome, wealthy, gentleman who has it all. He uses descriptive adjectives to tell about his wealth and his intelligence. He makes his readers think that this man is on top of the world. That is until the reader gets to the final line of the poem and the situational irony kicks into gear. Robinson plays off the two elements to create a vivid and shocking poem. As Robinson’s audience comes to find, it is impossible to influence true friendship and complete happiness by the size of your wallet.
A king may sit on his throne his entire life and count his gold, but that throne no matter the size or the comfort could ever replace the warmth of another human being. As that gold slowly collects dust over time its sparkle will fade and so will he. Money can buy anything in the entire world except the things that matter most in life such as love, self-fulfillment and contentment. Living out a life of luxury did not alter the reality that on the inside Richard Cory was a key example of imperfection in a seemingly perfect world.
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