Richard Corey Summary

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Richard Corey by Edwin Arlington Robinson

To the "people on the pavement," Richard Cory looked like he was on top of the world. The narrator of this 16 line poem (four a, b, a, b rhyming stanzas) tells how Cory was physically good-looking, well-dressed, humane, and very rich ("yes, richer than a king"). Yet "Richard Cory, one calm summer night, / Went home and put a bullet through his head. Appearances are deceiving. Depression and despair are not confined to the "people on the street."

Richard Cory written by Edwin Arlington Robinson, is about a man who appears to be admirable on the exterior but no one is familiar with his interior which is suffering. The narrator talks Richard Cory up by stating, he was "richer than a king," "admirably schooled," "we thought that he was everything to make us wish tat we were in his place." Until an abrupt ending to the poem, "one calm summer night, went home and put a bullet through his head." This poem makes one think about true happiness and what it entails. From the outside one may appear to have everything but happiness does not come from wealth, it comes from within ones self and the narrator didn't take the time to really get to know Richard Cory enough to observe his inner thoughts.

Robinson chooses a disarmingly simple form for the poem. Composed in iambic pentameter, the four quatrains rhyme abab and come down cleanly on masculine end rhymes—for example, town/him/crown/slim. The transitional "So" in the fourth stanza shifts the poem's focus from Richard Cory to the laboring class, which has its own mundane difficulties. The surprise of suicide achieved by one bullet to the head suits the "calm summer night," which masks the turmoil of Cory's life.
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