What different portrait of Richard Cory does the song build, compared to the poem?"Richard Cory" by Edward Arlington Robinson

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Simon and Garfunkel's song "Richard Cory," written in 1965 and recorded on their second album The Sounds of Silence, portrays Richard Cory as "a banker's only child" who not only is wealthy, but has political connections.  He has "everything that a man could want:  power, grace, and style."  In Edward Arlington Robinson's poem, however, Richard Cory is not portrayed as powerful politically or otherwise; he is simply "richer than a king."  There is also no knowledge by the "people on the pavement" of what he does.  But, in the song, the singer works in his factory and tells about seeing Richard Cory's picture on the society page as well as the rumors of "his parites and the orgies on his yacht."  He is not quite the distant, isolated, elevated "imperially slim" vision that the poem presents although the people who work in the factory only see him in the photos on the society page.

The Richard Cory of the song is a rich and powerful man surrounded by other wealty people whereas the Richard Cory of the poem is simply wealthy, rich like a king and never seen with anyone else.  He appears in town and says "Hello," but there is no apparent socialization that occurs.  Robinson's Cory seems much more isolated from human contact; his separation from the ordinary people seems more apparent as they look up from "the pavement" to this "imperially slim" man who is always alone.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that the song is angrier than the poem.  The poem's tone creates an almost reverential quality to Richard Cory.  It creates the sensibility that Richard Cory's superiority lies in his wealth.  The fact that the speaker of the poem is poor is separate from this reality.  The song creates a different vision of wealth.  The elements are still the same, but the chorus of the speaker working in one of Cory's factory creates the impression that the speaker's poverty is the trade off for Cory's wealth.  This is where there is anger and not so much as reverence.  The almost parasitic relationship present helps to accentuate the anger felt by the speaker, for while Cory enjoys his "orgies on his yacht" (great line) the speaker works in a factory and toils for his existence.  In the end, when Cory puts a bullet in his head, the chorus is the same, almost suggesting that death is a preferable existence to being poor.  This helps to bring out the anger the speaker feels about his predicament and the state of Richard Cory, something that is not as present in Robinson's poem.