Edward Arlington Robinson's "Richard Cory" is a narrative poem that has an ironic perspective. In this narrative, Richard Cory is submerged in the fastidious, and, as such, is perceived untruthfully by the people "on the pavement." For they envision a kingly figure who is "imperially slim, "quietly arrayed," and polite--"and rich, yes richer than a king." However, the exalted adjectives deceive both those who "curse the bread" and the reader. For, ironically, Richard Cory leads "a life of quiet desperation" as Thoreau wrote.
While the economic depression of 1893 impoverished people, and they struggled to survive, Richard Cory--albeit wealthy--has his own personal demons with which he struggles. His wealth has separated him so much from the ordinary people that he cannot converse with anyone. When he smiles and says "Hello," his greeting goes no further. The terrible loneliness of Cory may be at the heart of this narrative poem by Edward Arlington Robinson.