What is a moral lesson this poem might be said to teach?"Richard Cory" by Edward Arlington Robinson

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akannan's profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The previous post is quite strong.  I would only add that there could be a moral lesson about the nature of wealth and the perception it creates.  We live in a world where material wealth and monetary acquisition helps to define our consciousness and how individuals perceive one another and themselves.  When reading this poem, I am reminded of a line from the film, Jerry Maguire.  The female lead says, "First class- used to be a better meal, and now it's a better life."  Indeed, the idea that those who are wealthy are happier is something embedded in our social order.  Part of this might be the result of capitalism, where the acquisition of wealth is similar to a runaway train where there is no end in sight.  There will always be someone richer, more powerful, more endowed with the things that others envy.  The conception of Richard Cory as inherently better because of his wealth, his mannerisms, and his style is something that can be taught as proving true that "appearances can be deceiving."  If this is too cliched, perhaps another lesson is that all humans are trapped in their own state of incomplete consciousnesses.  The speaker is trapped in his, bound by a lack of wealth and poverty.  Richard Cory is bound in his, reason enough for him to put a bullet in his head.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One moral lesson that can be gleaned from Edward Arlington Robinson's poem "Richard Cory" is that we often envy people without knowing that they are not really enviable.  For, as Charles Dickens wrote in his A Tale of Two Cities,

A wonderful [meaning something causing wonder] fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.

In "Richard Cory," the townspeople perceive Cory as a king, "imperially slim" and a "gentleman from sole to crown."  Yet, he is isolated from people by the very wealth that they who "cursed the bread" in the depression of 1893 envy.  Because he is so rich, the people do not engage him in conversation as he may wish when he says "hello"; all that they notice is that "he glittered."  Because they are so poor, the "people on the pavement" can not imagine that anything can be wrong with Cory.  But, of course, he is desperately lonely, and it is his enviable money that creates this condition.  This is the "secret and mystery to every other."

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mpettie | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

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You can't judge a book by it's cover.  Many people thought that he was okay.  Afterall, he had money.  Although many of us don't want to admit it, we believe that money can buy love and happines.  In this case, Richard seemed to have it all.  For this reason, no one dared to ask him how his life was truly going.  I wonder if anyone even really tried to get to know him? One can only put on a facade for so long before people realize their true mental status.  This poem is sad but at the same time refreshing because it delivers a message. Care enough to go deeper.  Care enough to ask someone how they are really doing.  When that person answers you, care enough to really listen to their heart.

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