This poem introduces people from two socioeconomic classes: Richard Cory, who represents the wealthy class, and the "people on the pavement" who work for a living. With which group does the narrator identify? How do you know?
The narrator identifies with the working class. He or she uses the word "we" to describe the "people on the pavement", identifying the narrator as one of them. Moreover, the narrator describes how "we" worked hard, did without necessities, and wished to change places with Richard Cory.
How do Richard Cory's external appearance and mannerisms set him apart from the narrator and the people downtown?
Richard Cory is described as slim, well groomed, and schooled in every grace. Compared to the people described in the fourth stanza who worked and went without meat, and who are engaged in a struggle for survival that precludes emphasis on grooming or elaborate social graces, he looks and acts different from the people the narrator is used to seeing.
Is there any possibility that the narrator or other people in the poem could have predicted or prevented Richard Cory's death?
No. They didn't know him well enough. All of their interactions with Richard Cory were superficial and clouded by other people's awareness of his wealth. The difference in wealth and social class kept the townspeople at enough of a distance where they were not in a position to notice that anything was wrong. Richard Cory, fine manners notwithstanding, did not cultivate a close friendship with the narrator or any of the narrator's peers. It takes two to make a friendship, and Richard Cory preferred to remain at a distance.
Yes. If any of the townspeople had looked below the surface and gotten to know Richard Cory as a human being as opposed to as a glittering wallet with legs, perhaps they might have noticed he was troubled. Having somebody to talk to outside of his own family or class might not have solved Richard Cory's problems, but it might have provided some perspective and deterred him from taking his own life.
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