Edward Arlington Robinson's "Richard Cory" has two themes in its verse:
1. Wealth and its accompanying power have their lure, but they tend to alienate the individual
2. Perception is often deceiving.
The narrators of this poem are the common people, those "on the pavement" who have the perspective of looking up at Cory, admiring him for his appearance and wealth which are suggested in the regal terms of "crown," "clean favored," and "imperially slim."
In the second stanza the people's perception elevates Cory to a more iconic level. Although Richard Cory is "always human when he talked," he is set apart as one who "fluttered pulses" and "glitters." The only words that Cory speaks are "Good morning"; then he walks away; this action indicates the alienation of Cory in his elevated state.
That the people's perception of Cory is flawed is suggested in the third stanza in which his great wealth is mentioned--"richer than a king"--and the judgment of Cory's character by the people is indicated,
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place
While the people "on the pavement" envy Richard Cory who is wealthy and admired, he lives a life of "quiet desperation" as Thoreau once wrote. For, he is alienated from those who feel inferior and thus uncomfortable talking with him, and he is not to be envied at all, for he is tragically discontent with his lonely life.