Pick out words and phrases that tell about the work and describe the people in the poem "Richard Cory" by Edwin Arlington Robinson.

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carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The poem “Richard Cory” by Edwin Arlington Robinson portrays a much admired man in unnamed town.  The point of view of the poem is first person with one of the townspeople narrating the poem.

Richard Cory’s persona deceives the citizens of the town. Who are the people?

They watch Cory.

The people admire his dress and manners

When he speaks to the women, they are drawn to him.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
'Good-morning,' and he glittered when he walked.

The people wished that they were Richard Cory.

Waiting for a better time, these working class people are poor and unhappy with their ordinary lives.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread

It is easy to feel that someone knows another person when he really does not.  Ironically, Cory sees the people when he comes downtown, but how much actual interaction do the people have with him? They see him, admire him, speak to him, and watch him return to his home.

When he kills himself, the working class people may be shocked into realizing that their lives are not quite as tedious as they thought since they live, but the revered Richard Cory dies.

jimmeyer eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Cory's economic status is revealed in the follwing lines:

"He was a gentleman from sole to crown" (3)

"And he was rich - yes, richer than a king - / And admirably schooled in every grace:" (9-10)

The meaning of the word "gentleman" has changed a bit since the poem was written in 1897, but in Robinson's time it meant a man of "breeding" and of means, a man who lived on the interest of his accounts rather than by working.

The economic status of the speaker (and, by extension, of the townsfolk in general) has to be inferred from these lines:

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

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread" (11-14)

These lines allow the reader to deduce that the speaker (and the other working-class residents of the town) envy Cory because they must work hard and live modestly while Cory enjoys wealth and leisure.