Character Analysis of “Richard Cory” by Edwin Arlington Robinson

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Characters are not always as easily defined in poems as they are in fiction stories. The author reveals details about the character through action or interaction, tone, setting, or mood. The author will give clues and leave it up to the reader to decipher and interpret the meaning of the words. The title character, in Edwin Arlington Robinson’s “Richard Cory”, seems to be a very successful and dapper man about town, and he seems to have nothing but great qualities. He has manners, money, and most of all—he has looks. He is the man that everyone stops what they’re doing just so they can watch him pass by. It is soon realized that Richard Cory was not all he appeared to be after he “one calm summer night, went home and put a bullet through his head” (Robinson 15-16).

On the outside, Richard Cory, as described by the speaker, and perhaps one of the observers “on the pavement” (2), seems to have it all. We learn about his character from the descriptions of his appearance and his manners toward the people downtown where the setting takes place. He is described as “a gentleman from sole to crown” (3), giving the reader the impression that he was as notable as any royal subject would be. Although the speaker refers to Richard Cory as “quietly arrayed” (5), he also speaks of his wealth and says he is “richer than a king—“ (9) and made people feel special and “fluttered pulses when he said, ‘good-morning’, and glittered when he walked” (7-8). He had good looks, social status, wealth, and “admirably schooled in every grace” (10). The people in town “thought that he was everything” (11) and wished that they “were in his place” (12). The physical descriptions of Cory reveal only a small portion of the man he really was. Although he was known by everyone in town, they did not truly know him as a person. The inside of Richard Cory obviously did not match the outside. As he took his own life in such a violent way, the pain inside must have been great. He was...
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