What are some symbols in "Richard Cory"?

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mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Edwin Arlington Robinson's poem "Richard Cory" is rich in symbolism, imagery, and motif, the most important of which are:

"Richard Cory": the name itself is symbolic of the man, as it has the word "rich" in it, repeated in line 9: "And he was rich—yes, richer than a king."  The surname "Cory" is a spin on "core," echoed in line 3 "from heat to toe" and line 6 "he was always human."

The body: appearances are symbolic and, by virtue of the last line, deceiving as well.  Body symbolism and imagery include "sole to crown," "fluttered pulses," "the bullet through his head."  Even the "meat" and "bread" (together forming the "Body of Christ" sacrament) connote suffering.  Together, the people's focus on his bodily figure is ironically undercut by his unhappy suicide and separation from them.

The town: the geography of the town symbolically shows Richard Cory's separation from and status above the townspeople, with dualities of "down town" vs. his "home" where he "was richer than a king."  Line 2 clearly shows the gap in social class between R.C. and the town: "We people on the pavement looked at him."  This implies that R.C. towered or hovered above the masses.

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