Discuss briefly why Robinson chooses the voice of ordinary people to tell his story."Richard Cory" by Edward Arlington Robinson

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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One of the themes of Robinson's poem, "Richard Cory" is that appearances are often deceiving. This theme plays out with the "people on the pavement" during the 1893 Depression who perceive Cory as very rich man, "a gentleman from sole to crown"--richer than a king, in fact.  And, with the great disparity of socio-economic classes in this Depression, the poor people who must eat a cursed bread certainly envy someone who has more than he needs.  While they are starving, the people believe that Cory lives a glittering life of luxury and contentment. Thus, they envy him, and although Cory "fluttered pulses" when he walks, no one invites him to share in a conversation or anything else.  Still, they are shocked when they learn of Corey's death; probably, they are unaware of the terrible loneliness that he has suffered.

By using the voice of the ordinary people, therefore, Edward Arlington Robinson creates the chasm of social class and the distorted and often myopic perspective that the lower class has of the upper.  For, it never enters the townspeople's minds that someone as wealthy and handsome as Cory could be desperately lonely and isolated.  Their cruelty is also made evident as none have tried to understand anything about Cory as a real person.

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