In both Faulkner's short story and Robinson's poem, we are introduced to colorful small-town characters who've become local celebrities in their own right.
In the small Southern town of Jefferson, Mississippi, Miss Emily Grierson was, until her death, the last surviving link between the town and its supposedly more glorious past. As such, the local townsfolk put Miss Emily on something of a pedestal. They overlooked her eccentricities and gave her a pass when it came to paying property taxes.
As it turned out, there was a lot more to Miss Emily than met the eye. After her death, the skeletal remains of her lover, Homer Barron, are discovered in a bridal suite. It seems that Miss Emily just couldn't let Homer go, and so she killed him.
In “Richard Cory,” another local small-town celebrity is revealed to have a dark side. On the face of it, Richard Cory has everything a man could want. He's handsome, rich, well-mannered, and exceedingly popular among the people of the town. And yet, one night, completely out of the blue and without rhyme or reason, Richard Cory goes home and commits suicide. Unlike Miss Emily, we're never given a reason for Richard's behavior. But at the very least we can safely conclude that there was something going on in his mind that was sharply at odds with his outward appearance and behavior.
The figures of Miss Emily Grierson and Richard Cory are used by their respective creators to pull back the respectable facade of small-town American life to reveal the darker truth behind it.