Describe the possible situation of the speaker in E. A. Robinson's "Richard Cory."

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It's probable the speaker of this poem is a member of this town and one of Richard Cory's admirers.  He uses "we" thoughtout the work, so presumably he is one of the townspeople who was struck by the "glitter" of such an admirable man.

"... we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place."

By contrast, the town was not rich, nor were they admirable and well spoken in the way they saw Cory.  No pulses "fluttered" when they walked by.  "On we worked and waited for the light,
And went without the meat and cursed the bread...."

Yet their hard lives were evidently much better than the life of this man who had everything but

" calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet in his head."

The speaker tells of such admiration by the entire town--of which he is clearly a part--for a man who appeared to have everything while they suffered along in their privation.  Their admiration was apparently misplaced, however, for Richard Cory was clearly not content with his "perfect" life.




mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The speaker of Edward Arlington's poem "Richard Cory" is one of the people who does not have anything but "bread" to eat; he is part of the "we people on the pavement."

Like the others, the speaker is one of those people who judges others by his perception of them only; he is not, as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird urges his children, a person who tries to "climb into his skin and walk around in it."  Instead, he perceives Cory as almost like a king:  "imperially slim," "a gentleman from sole to crown."  This regal distance created by the speaker and the others "on the pavement" is what keeps them from conversing with Cory when he attempts communication with them in his "Good Morning." And, thus, he and the others are guilty of creating the terrible isolation and loneliness in Richard Cory that effects his suicide.  Yet, in their crassness, the people are stunned by the news, making no connection between their distant treatment of Cory and his death.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think the speaker of the poem is someone who is probably enduring economic challenge.  The manner in which they speak of Cory is laudatory and this praising has much to do with the acquisition of wealth and the rich manner in rich Cory carries himself.  In terms of the actual speaking, I would probably say that I can see the speaker talking with someone else after seeing someone else who might be carrying themselves as Richard Cory did.  The presence of someone else that resembles Cory and his wealth allows for the discussion of Cory to take place.  It is in this setting that the speaker is able to articulate Cory's wealth and status.  It is also a setting that allows the resolution of the poem to take place where there is a reflection of the speaker's own predicament as well as the ending of Cory, himself.