In literature, the author provides an avenue for the reader to look at the world that he has created. This is the point of view which establishes how the work will be seen and heard. The narration in “Richard Cory” by Edwin Arlington Robinson is a first person point of view narrator. This is important because the story in the poem will be told by someone who was there and observed firsthand what happened.
The narrator in the poem is a citizen of the town in which Richard Cory lives. This will help the reader to understand that the speaker personally observes Cory as he walks the streets of Tilbury [a fictitious town created by Robinson for his poetry] Through the use of the first person pronouns, it becomes obvious that the speaker knows this regal man who deceives everyone in town. The narrator speaks for the townspeople.
- We people of the pavement…
- In fine, we thought that he was everything…
- So on we worked
The narrator is a common working man who typically has little material value. At times, he cannot afford meat to feed his family. The speaker tells the story as a flashback, showing how this grand man who seemed to have everything felt so alienated that he killed himself.
Deferential and envious—the people of the pavement are deceived by the persona of Cory. To the speaker, he is everything that the citizenry would like to be. Richard Cory, according to the narrator, would walk to the heart of the town. He was impeccably dressed and was courtly in his manners. To the narrator, Richard Cory was the epitome of a gentleman.
Richard Cory was extremely rich. Apparently Cory did not flaunt his wealth because he was always under dressed for his status. He was highly educated. An unusual aspect about this man was that he spoke to the people in a fashion that made the narrator feel that Cory was “human” when he talked. The use of human implies that the speaker believes that Cory is better than the common folks,but he strives to be a part of the conversation as an equal.
In comparison, the “we” in the poem are lacking in many ways. Inferentially, they are poor, under educated, and hardworking. They wish that they were Richard Cory. Their regard for him isolates him and projects snobbery on the part of these common people.
Ironically, the speaker describes this elegant man, yet he saves the revelation until the end. Richard Cory was so unhappy and miserable that he killed himself.
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night
Went home and put a bullet through his head.
This irony is obvious. On the surface, the man is greatly admired. Yet, his inner turmoil takes the joy from his life, and he kills himself.
The townspeople may hold some culpability in Cory’s death. In the poem, no one engages Cory. He walks among them but the citizens are so awed by this man that they did not make him a comrade. Richard Cory was alone. He would go downtown in the morning, but he killed himself at night when he was by himself.