Irony In Edward Arlington Robinson's Richard Cory

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Written by Edward Arlington Robinson in 1897, the short poem, “Richard Cory,” describes a man who seems to embody the perfect lifestyle, but secretly struggles to find happiness within himself. Looking at Robinson’s childhood, Richard Cory likely serves as a representation of his viewpoints on wealth as he was born the son of a wealthy merchant. Robinson portrays his central theme through poetic devices such as irony and symbolism. The use of these devices allows Robinson’s outlook on wealth to flourish into a rhythmic story of the short life of Richard Cory.
Although “Richard Cory” features many variations of figurative language, Robinson’s primary application is irony. The obvious situational irony in the poem is that--to outsiders--Richard
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Primarily, his symbols convey the contrast between the lives of Richard Cory and the less fortunate people that he encounters in the city. Richard Cory’s wealth, education, and status are all symbolized throughout the poem by references to the meat, light, and a crown. Conversely, Robinson uses the bread, darkness, and pavement to symbolize the state of those around Richard Cory. The reference to food is in the line, “And went without the meat, and cursed the bread,” and it is meant to demonstrate the gap in the quality of food the two sides can afford which, in turn, symbolizes the difference in overall wealth (14). In regards to education, Robinson plays off of the term of the era, enlightenment, and represents knowledge with light and darkness. His line, “So on we worked, and waited on the light,” describes how, unlike Richard, the people of the city have to wait for and work towards an education (13). As well as wealth and education, status is also symbolized in the poem. Robinson labels Richard Cory’s head a crown, and the lower class citizens are said to be “of the pavement” (2). The comparison of a symbolic king to the homeless on the pavement signifies the relationship between Richard Cory and the lower class and the difference in their prominence in the community. Besides the major symbolism in the poem, the name Richard Cory serves as a symbol in itself; the generic choice of name signifies …show more content…
Robinson’s blunt approach to the unveiling of his suicide is an attempt to emphasize the theme of the poem, and the blasé tone of the lines, “One calm summer night, / Went home and put a bullet through his head,” is the main contributor to that emphasis (15-16). Until the last line of the poem, Richard Cory seems to have it all--just as society sees those with real wealth and status. People often do not recognize the struggles of those more fortunate than themselves because they automatically link money and status with happiness. The message Robinson seeks to portray is that appearances do not always accurately depict the state of the person. Although they may have success, they may lack happiness, hope, or relationships. Robinson uses Richard Cory as an example of this notion and a warning to the people on the pavement to look deeper than surface-level, because although they long for the life of Richard Cory, Richard Cory may long for a life like theirs.
While Robinson’s poem, “Richard Cory,” has a generally cheerful tone due to rhyme and diction, the overall theme is one of negativity. Robinson creates this contrast not only through the direct irony of the poem, but also in the symbolism he uses throughout his work. The goal of this poem is to emphasize that everyone suffers in life--just in different ways. Although many saw Richard Cory

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