We are currently in a society that can generally be characterized by commercialism. The definition of commercialism can simply be stated as an attitude that emphasizes tangible profit or success. This attitude occurs all around us in our society. As young children we are all conditioned to live this particular way. It really does not matter how successful a person is they are only looking to be as good as somebody else. These people that we are looking to as ideal seem to be so composed on the outside that we never stop to think or to see that they may actually be hurting on the inside. Edwin Arlington Robinson (a short biography and some pictures are attached if you are interested) exemplified this masterfully in condition to his poem Richard Cory.
The narrator of the poem is someone in an inferior working class, but he is verbal communicating for everyone in his neighborhood who seems to be of equivalent economic standing. They work hard away at efforts that are both filthy and demanding and at the end of the day there is very little to confirm it. They are famished for both food and reassurance. Robinson himself lived in poverty as we have learned in his biography, and was almost well-known for the feeling of jealousy that this character discloses in the poem. But we need to question whether or not the poor are in fact the bottom of the emotional ladder. Perhaps a closer and more intense look into some various lines to see if the text will show that things may not always be as they seem.
The first line of the poem shows the audience a glance into what Richard Cory is about, or at least how he is perceived to his audience. In the first two lines we are introduced to the poem’s namesake, Richard Cory, and we know that he is someone that people take notice of and are interested in as a person. The third line states that “He was a gentleman from sole to crown,” which tells us that he was a man of good nature from his personality to his physical features. Robinson uses the word crown to describe Richard Cory but as a reader we may not think of his as royalty but rather an eminent figure regarded in that fashion. In the preceding line Robinson utilizes the word “imperially” to describe his physical characteristics, which again portrays the image of royalty. Through the next various lines, we learn that Richard Cory is a clean and well-dressed individual thus he does not have the same job or economic status as the narrator of the poem.
In the second stanza we become familiar with Richard Cory’s character. He doesn’t appear to be strained, exhausted or famished. Richard is an enjoyable and commendable man in several various areas. The fifth line states that he is “quietly arrayed,” meaning that he is never dressed in outrageous manner, but it can also denote his ability to collect himself in public. “And he was always human when he talked” (6) creates for the reader a man who is real; one who could relate to the people, and didn’t speak down to those he came in contact with. Still, “he fluttered pulses” (7) when he spoke to people, and we know that both men and women alike felt privileged when he gave them notice on the street.
Edwin Arlington Robinson displays a portrayal of an individual through the narrator, either a man or woman, who wants desperately to obtain the correct level of achievement and contentment. His use of symbolism and imagery allows the reader to contemplate his own relationship to this moralistic poem. But the famous question he poses is whether or not we will know happiness before our time is up on earth or will be continue to idealize that individual that supposedly has “more” than we do.Posted by MelissaHagg at November 9, 2004 09:47 PM