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Character Analysis of “Richard Cory” by Edwin Arlington Robinson

By amcbeath Jun 14, 2012 634 Words
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 thought to have been a man with power and success; a man without a worry in the world, but somehow not powerful enough to overcome his troubles. As the speaker talks about how he himself “went without the meat, and cursed the bread” (14), he realizes that even with the comfort of money and food, a man can still have troubles. It is unclear what drove him to such drastic measures, but by the extreme descriptions of the observer, perhaps it was the thought of not being able to live up to be the man the town so desperately wanted or expected him to be. Perhaps Cory could no longer take the pressure of being the ”king” of the town. Of course no one really knew that the man they saw in town every day and greeted them with a smile and a “hello”, was actually an unhappy person hiding behind his social status.

Bibliography: *Primary Source
Finney, Gail. Women In Modern Drama:Freud, Feminism, and European Theater at the Turn of the Century. Ithica: Cornell University Press, 1991. electronic book. 16 April 2012. . Goldman, Emma. The Social Significance of Moder Drama. New York: Cosimo, 2005. electronic book. 13 April 2012. . *Ibsen, Henrik. "A Dollhouse." Edgar V. Roberts, Robert Zweig. Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing. New York: Person, 2012. 1758-1804. Text Book. Metzger, Sheri. "An Overview of A Doll's House." Drama for Students. Detroit: Gale, n.d. Work Overview, Critical Essay. 13 April 2012. . Trudeau, Ed Lawrence L. "Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906)." Trudeau, Ed Lawrence L. Drama Criticism. Vol. 2. Detroit: Gale Research, 1992. 266-356. electronic book. 11 April 2010. .

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