Richard Cory Themes

Richard Cory Themes

Wealth

The narrator describes Richard Cory as a person who had every possible advantage, and who appeared to have been groomed and trained as a man of privilege. Cory's wealth sets him apart from the townspeople, who look at him as though he is a different sort of creature and perhaps not entirely human. It is the wealth, and people's awareness of the wealth, that alienates Cory from the narrator and the other people in the story.

Cory does not live downtown, but he sometimes goes there. When he does, he doesn't go out of his way to attract attention by dressing lavishly or acting like a caricature. Yet people treat him differently than they treat one another. Their awareness of his wealth causes pulses to flutter when he wishes them a good morning, and everything about him comes across as refined, schooled, polished, and perhaps not entirely real. The fact Cory is described as being "human" when he talks indicates that the narrator finds it surprising, because it seems to the narrator to not quite be what he or she expects.

Cory's wealth causes him to be envied by the "we" represented by the narrator. The "people on the pavement" are going without meat, dissatisfied with the bread, and unhappy with their lot in life. Many wish they could trade places with him, yet nobody seems to take the time to get to know him. Cory's wealth, and everybody's awareness of it, appears to create a barrier between him and other people.

The narrator does not mention that Richard Cory had any friends, peers, or family of his own socioeconomic class, so there is a chance that he had none. If so, his alienation from the other people in the town could have been a contributing factor in his eventual suicide.

Separation

The narrator is representative of a greater "we", specifically the "people on the pavement" who lived or worked downtown and who were occasionally treated to a glimpse of Richard Cory's scintillating presence. There is a clear "us-versus-them" delineation in the poem, and Richard Cory, pleasant and well-groomed as he appears to be, is the odd man out.

It is not Richard Cory that the narrator envies; the narrator does not actually know the man and his observations are entirely superficial. He says nothing about Cory's faith, his politics, his likes, or his dislikes. He merely observes his speech, dress, and mannerisms and draws conclusions based on his observations. Since the narrator represents the rest of the townspeople, it may be safe to say that he is being judged and kept at a distance in part because of his wealth. Yet the narrator and the townspeople have no insight whatsoever into Cory himself. Clearly the wealthy man was troubled by problems the casually acquainted "we" knew nothing about, otherwise he would not have shot himself to death.

The reader is left to wonder whether alienation and separation from other human beings might have been a factor in Cory's unhappiness.

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