Why do you think Richard Cory commited suicide in Robinson's "Richard Cory"?Do you think rich people are more likely to commit suicide? (why or why not)

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Edwin Arlington Robinson's poem, "Richard Cory" recalls the findings of recent studies that have revealed that people who have won millions of dollars in lotteries have said after a year or more that they almost wish that they had not won the money.  For, even though they tried to retain their old friendships, they grew apart from them because they had purchased a new, more luxurious home, bought a new, elegant or sporty car, and no longer worked with some of the friends.  Suddenly, they and their friends were on different levels.

Such is the case with Richard Cory; even though he is "human when he talked," he

...fluttered pulses when he said,

"Good morning," and he glittered when he walked.

Richard Cory speaks and would like to communicate with people, but his wealth creates an alienation as the "people on the pavement" perceive him as one above them--not someone with whom they would converse.  Cory is like a king whom they admire rather than one with whom they would associate because he is a "gentleman from sole to crown" and "imperially slim."

Aware of the social and economic distance among them, the people of Robinson's poem are like the friends of the lottery winners; they are uncomfortable socializing with one whom they "wish that we were in his place."

Like the "poor,little rich girl," Gloria Vanderbilt, whose wealth prohibited her from having meaningful relationships as so many men merely wanted her money, Richard Cory is desperately lonely, a condition exacerbated by his wealth.  This is the "hollowness and emptiness" of which akannan above writes.  Cory's life, devoid of socialization, is a desperately lonely one, so lonely that he kills himself out of despair.

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

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I think that there is a driving force behind Robinson's poem that might strike at an experience of nothingness that plagues all individuals.  The rich, such as Richard Cory, might be able to inspire a sense of wonderment and awe amongst individuals who might be envious of what they possess or how they carry themselves.  Yet, there is a hollowness that still might be present that wealth cannot conceal.  Perhaps, rich people might have it more challenging in this respect.  The rich might be able to inspire wonderment and awe in others and due to the fact that they are able to possess so much, they could certainly believe that they are able to overcome any sadness.  This might make their situation more precarious because when they realize that there is a hollowness or emptiness present, it might strike as doubly painful in that they realize they are victims to sadness despite all of what they have or what they can possess.

clairewait's profile pic

clairewait | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Sadly, no, I do not think rich people are more likely to commit suicide.  I do, however, believe it is more publicized when a rich person commits suicide because our media and society are largely more interested in rich (and good looking) people than anyone else.  It would be interesting to see the statistics - but I cannot imagine depression purposefully targets the wealthy.

One thing that might make it seem like rich people have more reason to commit suicide however, is that with a lot of possessions comes (seemingly) more responsibility to keep up the standard of showing wealth.

Another big issue in this question is what is wealthy?  I think everyone makes a point of comparison that one-ups what we already have.  Millionaires (to most) are wealthy.  But they probably look at multi-millionaires and say, "Oh, he's rich.  I'm not as rich as he is... THAT is truly wealthy." I imagine with that kiind of pressure for constant success, the need to get more and more and - perhaps it creates more complications and stress than average people living average lives deal with.

she1818's profile pic

she1818 | College Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted on

"Richard Cory" may have been alienated from the suffering poor or maybe he suffered from some mental challenges.  There is a slight slight hint in the words "quietly arrayed" that he had a dark or strange side.  But this is the only hint. The rest of the poem simply shows us the irony--that the person we believe is free of torment may be inwardly tormented.  Possessions don't make people happy; this is the theme.

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