So on we worked and waited for the light,
And went without the meat and cursed the bread,
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet in his head.
In this stanza, the common people work and wait for the light. This means that they work until it is time to die. The light represents the end of this life as we know it. Many people believe that the light represents a time when one passes from this life to another.
The light at the end of the tunnel is a familiar expression. This expression is based on some people's near-death experiences. There seems to be a bright light at the end of a dark tunnel. In this poem, the common people who wish to be Richard Cory work and wait for the light. The common people know only one thing--work. The light represents hope that one day their hard work will end and a new life will begin. The light represents a better life. The light represents a time when hard work will end and all will be joy and peace forever more.
Ironically, Richard Cory ends his life. He reaches the light before the townspeople. Up until Richard's death, the townspeople had wished to be like Richard Cory. The townspeople wished to have his money. Richard Cory wished to be like the townspeople. He was lonely:
If the townspeople wished they were in his place because of his wealth, he in turn wished he were one of them because they were rich in one another's company.
The townspeople still work and wait for the light. One day, death will come for all the townspeople. Until then, the townspeople have no choice. They must work for the bread they curse. It is no wonder that they hope for a better life. It is no wonder that they wait for the light which represents a better life.