Richard Cory Poem Analysis

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Ever since the 1600s when William Shakespeare described the whole world as “a stage” and “all the men and women merely players”, the idea of people wearing masks and hiding their true feelings has been present in literature in one way or another. In the late 1800s, Paul Laurence Dunbar publishes “We wear the mask”, a poem that focuses on people hiding their true feelings from others and everyone can relate. Unlike Dunbar who talks about different kinds of emotional masks people use, Edwin Arlington Robinson uses his “Richard Cory” to draw attention to a mask of money and success, which makes the average people (“we people”) admire and idealize the successful person (Richard Cory) only because we do not know and do not even try to see what is hidden behind the mask. With ABAB rhyme scheme, in just 4 stanzas and 16 lines, Edwin Arlington Robinson tells a meaningful and timeless story about misfortune of Richard Cory, a person behind the mask of money and success who seemingly has everything anyone could wish for. Robinson starts the first stanza with a description of Richard Cory’s appearance and a clear distinction between the two sides, Richard Cory and “we people”. The speaker mentions Richard Cory in the first line without any introduction, which means that everyone should know who Richard Cory was, so the introduction is not needed. Furthermore, whenever Richard would come to downtown, “we people of the pavement” admired him. The people of the pavement or people from the streets of the downtown, including the speaker, were obviously of a lower socioeconomic class in comparison to Richard Cory. What is more, the speaker uses “we people” as he wants to include the reader as well. In other words, the speaker is confident that a reader would have also admired Richard Cory if they had seen him. In the next two lines, the speaker uses a metaphor and implicitly compares Richard to a king: “He was a gentleman from sole to crown” as well as “imperially slim”. Instead of saying a gentleman from the feet to the head, the author uses a phrase “sole to crown” to put Richard Cory on a king’s pedestal. In addition, Richard is “imperially” thin, which is another characteristic of kings. So, was Richard Cory really a king
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