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The irony is found in the end of the poem. "And Richard Cory one calm summer night / Went home and put a bullet through his head." After describing Richard Cory as the man everyone else wanted to be, the author suddenly twists the poem, showing Richard Cory's suicide. "Calm" increases the irony, because it gives a false illusion of peace and contentment, only to be shattered by Richard Cory "putting a bullet through his head." Its situational irony.
Richard Cory by Edwin Arlington Robinson is a tragic tale that is still relevant in the twenty-first century even though it was written for an audience or reader of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. People suffering from shortages because of economic depression cannot conceive why a person whom they clearly hold in high esteem and who is "admirably schooled in every grace" could be leading such a troubled life. It remains ironic how people measure success by wealth and status. Richard Cory is "richer than a king" and is treated like one by the townspeople.
Only with hindsight is it clear that what Richard really wants is companionship and community. He has never set himself apart by his demeanor or his behavior; he remains friendly and the narrator finds it necessary to mention that he is "human" as the reader may otherwise be surprised that a man of his status is down-to-earth. It is ironic that the narrator makes this comment as the townspeople treat him as if he is a hero and far above the realm of "human." His suicide however proves otherwise and confirms that he has serious concerns even though his concerns differ from theirs. He obviously never "went without the meat..."
Additionally, there is more irony in the fact that the townspeople strive to be like Richard Cory when he is really the last person they should emulate as his life is obviously not idyllic just because he is wealthy. The final irony seems to be in Richard's own attempts to connect which in fact only serve to create more distance between him and the townspeople who are so in awe of him that he "glittered when he walked." Just as the "calm summer night" belies the harsh reality of life so too does Richard Cory's apparent privilege fool the townspeople into believing that "he was everything."
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