Poem Comparison

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The three poems "Richard Cory" by Edwin Arlington Robinson, "We Wear the Mask" by Paul Laurence Dunbar, and "Not Waving but Drowning" by Stevie Smith all have the same theme that appearances can be deceiving and that people are not always what they seem. The poems convey the idea that people can misinterpret the meaning behind other people's actions because the actions are deliberately misleading. The subjects in each of these poems give people the wrong impression by making them think their lives are satisfactory, but in reality they are miserable and desperately need help. Richard Cory is the subject in the first poem and his wealth, education, and breeding make all the people in town have a high regard for him and to wish they were him, "we thought that he was everything/to make us wish that we were in his place" (11-12). The speaker is one of the common people in town. He talks of his money and style but is also careful to make Richard Cory seem like an amicable man. The impression is that he was not arrogant but gracious and friendly, "And he was always quietly arrayed/ And he was always human when he talked" (5-6). There is never an indication that anything is lacking in his existence until he takes his own life at the end of the poem. The subject in the second poem is people or human beings in general. This poem describes how all people hold in their pain and smile on the outside, "With torn and bleeding hearts we smile" (4). We don't like to let others know that we are sad or weak. We like to have others think that our lives are fine. In the third stanza the author speaks of people calling on God when we are in pain when no one else is looking, "We smile, but O great Christ, our cries/To thee from tortured souls arise" (10-11). We want the world to believe our mask is real, but in reality it's a disguise that conceals who we are and what is going on in our lives. The third poem tells of a man who is mistaken for waving when he is really...
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