Even though the poem was first published in 1897, the poem has universal appeal for its themes of self-deception, envy, the haves and have-nots, and emptiness of spirit.
Throughout time, the economy in every country has its peak moments and its valley moments. Through all of this, the poor suffer greatly, the wealthy might take a hit, but they survive. The middle class sometimes suffers the most, and seeing no way out, there is often suicide. At times like these, and truly on a daily basis if you consider Richard Cory the equivalent of the Hollywood bunch or famous athletes to society today as royalty is to those countries with monarchies, people look to those whose lives appear glamorous for a bit of a pick-me-up.
In the poem, Richard was treated as royalty. The people "cursed the bread" while he "glittered as he walked and fluttered pulses when he talked". The commoners who had no meat to eat and were truly suffering from poverty had no clue of the depression and spiritual emptiness that Cory was feeling until one beautiful summer evening he put a bullet through his head.
It is a universal theme that we can all still relate to and understand to some extent. This is why the poem is still considered to be so modern and relevant to modern society.