What are the poetic devices used in the poem "Richard Cory?"

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literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The poem "Richard Cory," by Edwin Arlington Robinson, contains many different poetic devices.

1. Assonance- Assonance is the repetition of a vowel sound within a line of poetry. The first line of the poem contains assonance. In the phrase "down town," the vowel sound "ow" is repeated.

2. Alliteration- Alliteration is the repetition of a consonant sound within a line of poetry. The second line of the poem contains an example of alliteration when the words "people" and "pavement" are used. Given that the "p" sound is repeated, and this is a consonant, this shows alliteration.

3. Repetition- Repetition is the repeating of a word or phrase in order to give emphasis to the words repeated. Both lines five and six begin in the same way: "and he was always."

4. Hyperbole- A hyperbole is a figure of speech which is used as an exaggeration not meant to be taken literally. In line eight the phrase "he glittered when he walked" is an example of a hyperbole. Readers are not expected to believe that Cory actually glittered when he walked; instead, it is meant to provide a specific image for the reader.

5. Imagery- Imagery provides a description of something which creates a vivid image for the reader. The image of glittering when Cory walked paints a very distinct image for a reader.


edcon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Aside from what other educators have offered on the subject of Robinson's techniques, there is enjambment and use of "we" and "the" in unexpected ways.

Enjambment occurs when a poet continues a sentence without pause beyond the end of a line, couplet, or stanza.  As line eleven moves to line twelve, Robinson uses no period, comma, em dash, semi-colon or colon to mark a stop or pause. Lines eleven and twelve are the only truly enjambed lines in the poem. 

Robinson makes an unusual choice in having his speaker use "we" as a collective voice that describes Richard Cory and the action of the poem.

In the poem's fourth and final stanza, Robinson uses the particularizing, definite article "the" to modify the light, the meat, and the bread. "The" is the only definite article in the English language, and it is often used to describe something the writer knows the reader is intimately familiar with. Since poetry is essentially condensed language, Robinson's use of the definite article must be deliberate.

thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Richard Cory uses several different types of literary devices.

First, and most obviously, it uses rhyme and meter. The meter is somewhat irregular iambic pentameter. The poem is shaped into four-line stanzas (quatrains) rhymed ABAB; the rhymes are regular masculine rhymes.

Another literary device the poem uses is repetition, such as the repetition of the phrase "And he was always", giving a sense of the regularity of Cory's habits. 

Another device used in several places in the poem is hyperbole, or exaggeration, such as the description of Cory as richer than a king. This shows that the town emphasized the differences between him and the rest of the townspeople when thinking or talking about him.

There are several instances of alliteration in the poem, for example the repetitions of the initial "w" sounds in the first two lines of the final stanza. 

The poem also uses metaphor in several places, for example in describing Cory as glittering when he walked.