Richard Cory Literary Elements

Richard Cory Literary Elements

Speaker or Narrator, and Point of View

The narrator speaks in the first person plural and has no insight whatsoever into Richard Cory's thoughts or motives, but is well acquainted with the opinions of the "we" the narrator represents.

Form and Meter

This is a 16-line poem in iambic pentameter consisting of four ABAB stanzas.

Metaphors and Similes

Richard Cory is said to be "richer than a king" meaning that he is wealthy.

Alliteration and Assonance

“People on the pavement” repeats the initial sound of the letter “P” and is an example of alliteration. An example of assonance can be found on lines 5 and 7, where “arrayed” rhymes imperfectly with “said”.


Although Richard Cory appears to an external observer to have all the advantages in life and to suffer no worldly cares, he commits violent suicide.


This is a short-form poem.


The setting is in some urban area where the streets or sidewalks downtown are paved. The climax of the piece occurs in the summer.


The first three stanzas are quite light and almost surreal. The final stanza begins with angst, describing the suffering of the narrator's people, and ends with one matter-of-fact line at the end.

Protagonist and Antagonist

If Richard Cory is the protagonist, the antagonists are the narrator and other people who do not understand him.

Major Conflict

The major conflict in this piece is between a wealthy man and the townspeople who are so put off and distracted by his external mannerisms and appearance that they never get to know the real person. They resent and envy him for his affluence, but they do not actually know the man they envy.


The climax of the piece occurs in the last line, where Richard Cory shoots himself in the head, apparently without warning.


The entire point of the piece is that, to the townspeople, there is no warning of Richard Cory's distress or impending death. They are so distracted by their own cares and by the external image he presents that they do not notice any warning signs. A second reading of the poem identifies the line about wishing "we" were in Richard Cory's place as a form of ironic foreshadowing, but it cannot be seen the first time through the poem.


The statement that the "people on the pavement looked at him" is an understatement. The narrator and his or her peers draw a number of conclusions based on Richard Cory's appearance and mannerisms, but they never look below the surface.


The poem makes reference to royalty and empire, or to popular stereotypes about them, by mentioning that Cory is "imperially" slim.

Metonymy and Synecdoche

The phrase "people on the pavement" can be read as a metonym. The word "people" can refer to a group of individuals, or it can refer to a collective people such as the ones described by the narrator's "we".


Richard Cory personifies wealth and privilege.


The description of Richard Cory as "richer than a king" may be hyperbole, because although the man is wealthy the narrator does not know his net worth. Certainly in modern times it is common for industrialists, real estate magnates, authors, and patent or copyright holders to become richer than many hereditary heads of state. The phrase might not be hyperbole.


The phrase "fluttered pulses" is onomatopoeic.

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