Edwin Arlington Robinson in his poem "Richard Cory" explains a man's life in sixteen lines. The simplicity and duplicity of life are summarized in these splendidly written lines. Much like O. Henry in his story stories, Robinson gives the reader a seemingly ordinary description of a much admired man and then shocks the reader with the conclusion of the poem.
In the poem, the reader will discover Robinson commenting on the class system present in his day between those that have and those who do not. Believing someone should be admired for his dress, his wealth, and manners is forgetting about what is most important in a man: his character and the reality of his life.
The poem speaks to the idea that one never knows what is going on behind closed doors. So who was this Richard Cory? He was a man of gentlemanly manners and etiquette. Handsome, well-dressed, but not showy--these are the attributes the townspeople ascribed to Cory. He did not "put on airs," nor was he loud and boisterous in his conversations among the people. It seemed almost that there was an aura around him as moved in the town. Because he was well-educated and extremely rich, the commoners admired him so much that they wished they were he. Yet, men must go with their lives working and hoping that things will improve. What does this greatly admired man, Richard Cory, who seemingly has everything, do: he commits suicide. Wow! Is that a surprise for everyone?
The question asked was "Why was Richard Cory envied?" The people who observed Cory in his daily life knew only what they saw and heard and that seemed admirable, even wonderful. They were unable to see into his heart and mind to find the obvious misery and unhappiness that he must have felt.