Please identify and explain the major poetic elements that Robinson uses in "Richard Cory." How many important major poetic elements are in this poem?

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Edward Arlington Robinson's poem, "Richard Cory," there is metaphor upon metaphor.  Richard Cory is described with glowing, unstated comparisons, reflective of the fact that he himself has become a metaphor for what he really is.  That is, the "people on the pavement," the seemingly mundane people, have so glorified Richard who is "richer than a king" that he no longer possesses a real identity for them.  Instead, he represents what they cannot attain, and thus envy as they "go without the meat" and "cursed the bread" that in their poverty is all they have to eat.  Cory is regal:  he "glitters when he walks," "a gentleman from sole to crown," and "schooled in every grace."

This lack of true identity has perhaps wrought the distress in Richard Cory that causes his suicide.  And, Richard Cory's situation has much verisimilitude, for in this country the ordinary people--those on the pavement--worship celebrities, thinking that they, like Richard, are "everything to make [them] wish [they] were in his/her place." Thus, in their envy, the public transforms these celebrities into metaphors of themselves.  Not long after this transformation, the media can then joyously report the tragic news that the price of fame has cost them.

sciftw's profile pic

sciftw | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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As the previous answer stated, metaphor is a major poetic element found in "Richard Cory."  Throughout the metaphor, Richard Cory is compared to a regal king.  Readers are told that he is "richer than a king."  Furthermore the people see him as glittering and "imperially slim."  What's interesting about the metaphor of Cory being compared to kingly wealth is how it also makes a comparison between wealth and loneliness/depression.  Cory's money presumably allows him to do many things, but it can't buy him happiness; therefore, he commits suicide at the poem's conclusion.  

The poem also makes use of anaphora.  Anaphora is a repetition of words or phrases at the beginning of lines. In "Richard Cory," the word "and" is used to start 6 lines.  The poem is only 16 lines to begin with, so that means "and" starts more than 1/3 of the lines in the poem.  The effect is that the poem begins to read like a list.  The narrator tells readers how great the man is, and he just piles on thing after thing that makes Cory so great.  That really helps with the poem's shocking ending.  Cory is so great and amazing, yet he still kills himself.  

As for the poem's structure, "Richard Cory" is a straightforward poem.  It's made up of 4 quatrains, and each quatrain follows an ABAB rhyme scheme.  Each line consists of 10 syllables, and those are broken into 5 iambic feet.  That makes the poem written in iambic pentameter.  An iambic foot is made when an unstressed syllable is followed by a stressed syllable.  If we use bold text to indicate a stressed syllable, the first line of the poem reads as follows:

Whenever Richard Corwent down town.

The rhythm and meter is very regular throughout this poem.  Combined with the regular rhyme scheme, the poem sort of lulls readers into familiar territory.  We don't expect anything shocking or different by the poem's end.  Then the narrator finally throws readers off balance with the poem's final line.  

Went home and put a bullet through his head.

It still follows the poem's rhythm and rhyme, but the line's content is a complete shock. 

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