Describe the tone used in the poem “Richard Cory.”

The tone of “Richard Cory” starts off as admiring and respectful as the speaker describes the eponymous gentleman in positively glowing terms. However, the tone abruptly changes in the last two lines to one of irony, as we discover that Richard Cory has killed himself.

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Edwin Arlington Robinson shifts tones in his celebrated poem "Richard Cory" to create a surprising, ironic ending, which underscores the theme that appearances can be deceiving. For the majority of the poem, Robinson utilizes a somewhat emulous, revered tone to describe Richard Cory. The first and second stanzas describe Richard Cory as a consummate gentleman who is attractive and charismatic. The tone of admiration and wonder conveys the citizens' feelings of respect and awe they have for Richard Cory, who is significantly above their social class but humble enough to politely acknowledge them.

In the third stanza, Robinson shifts the tone to one of envy as the narrator desires to trade places with esteemed Richard Cory. The tone shifts again in the fourth and final stanza to one of irony when the reader discovers Richard Cory shot himself in the head. The ironic tone corresponds to the surprise ending when the man who has everything suddenly commits suicide. The unexpected shift in tone also conveys the shock the citizens experience when they receive the astonishing news, which is a feeling the audience shares. Robinson delivers the jarring news in a detached, objective tone as the narrator bluntly describes Richard Cory's violent death. The irony of Richard Cory's life and his abrupt demise reminds the audience that appearances can be deceiving, and one can never fully know another person's internal struggles.

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For most of “Richard Cory” the tone is one of admiration and respect. The eponymous gentleman is presented to us as someone that everyone in town instinctively looks up to. A handsome, well-dressed man, he is the very epitome of class and sophistication as he walks along the street, glittering as he goes.

The tone of admiration continues into the second stanza, becoming ever more breathless. Here we're told that pulses flutter when he says, “Good morning.” It is at this stage of the poem that the tone becomes a touch envious, a tone that's reinforced in the following stanza when we're informed that Richard Cory is “richer than a king.” In sum, he is everything “to make us wish that we were in his place.”

One can only imagine, then, the shock the reader of “Richard Cory” must feel when the tone of the poem abruptly changes in the last two lines to one of irony. Despite being rich, handsome, debonair, and popular with everyone in town, Richard Cory goes home one calm summer night and puts a bullet through his head.

The contrast in tone with the rest of the poem could not be greater. And though somewhat jarring, the sudden change of tone is appropriate in his particular case. Here was a man who seemed to have it all but, in actual fact, was involved in a struggle with demons that he was sadly unable to win.

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"Richard Cory" is a great example of how a poet can use more than one tone in a poem to achieve a theme that is unexpected or startling.  

The speaker's tone in describing Richard Cory in lines one through fourteen is admiring, even envious.  He is a man who seems to have it all: the attention of people in town, a kingly physique ("imperially slim"), and a manner that is neither self-aggrandizing nor arrogant.  He is wealthy, well-mannered, and the envy of those who encounter him.  His gifts stand in contrast to those less well-off who "went without the meat" and waited for things to improve. 

The final lines, fifteen and sixteen, are delivered in a dispassionate, matter-of-fact tone:

"And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,

Went home and put a bullet through his head."

Edward Arlington Robinson shifts the tone in his poem at the end to remind readers that we can never fully understand other people's interior lives.  The poem was written when many in the country were struggling through the aftermath of a severe economic downturn, and though Richard Cory apparently put a brave face on his situation, he carried repressed burdens.

 

 

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I would describe the tone as ironic. The poet spends most of the poem indicating how much people wanted to be like "Richard Cory". They envied his manners, his wealth and his status. Everyone "wished that we were in his place." Then suddenly, in the last line, we discover Cory has killed himself. This is the ultimate irony. Obviously, Cory was terribly unhappy with his life and his outside appearance hid a much deeper problem. This is fits the definition of irony perfectly, "something unexpected." From the initial shock of the ending, we discover that people are not always what they seems to be on the outside.

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The tone of "Richard Corey" is one of numbed shock and bemused confusion.  Why did this man who had everything take his own life?  He was comfortable financially.  He was well-liked.  He was attractive.  He had everything that people believe will make them happy.

And yet Richard Corey was not happy.  This leaves those who knew him confused.  How could they have known?  What signs did they miss?

The tone brings out an emotional response in readers by reminding them that all people are fighting unseen battles, and we never know who is about to give up the fight.

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