While the "people on the pavement" perceive Richard Cory as imperially slim and all that they hope to be, their assumption that his life is to be envied is based upon appearances and, not the inner workings of his heart. Yet, Arlington subtlely hints that Cory makes the same erroneous judgment about them. For, he comes to town and speaks to people, saying "Good morning," but all that occurs is the fluttering of pulses. Deceived by their admiring glances which he feels welcome him, Cory is withheld from the human communion he desires because his perception of the common people's hearts is delusional, as well. His wealth at the time of the 1893 Depression when others had only bread to eat, keeps people from talking to him. It is this alienation which the public forces upon him that leads to his tragic end.
This poem is all about what seems to be and what reality says is the truth of the circumstances. It is a great example of how we perceive things and others perceive the same set of circumstances and in how we deal with those circumstances. Do we stand firm and deal as best we can? Or do we retreat and fall in the face of adversity? The speaker while lamenting his own personal situation is definitely in awe of Richard Cory. This poem contrasts what seems with what is. To average people (the “people on the pavement”) Cory seems to have everything, and seems to be above ordinary human concerns. Such, however, is not the case, as the poem makes clear in the powerful final line. At the heart of even the most apparently favored and prosperous among us, there are complexities, mysteries, and hidden anguish, which may rise destructively and unexpectedly