Characterization and the Use of Situational Irony in “Richard Cory”
Refraining from focusing on the cataclysms and absurdities of Richard Cory’s life the author chooses to keep his readers in the same darkness that the collective narrator, “we” of the poem seems to remain in. Referring to the characterization Joyce C Levenson notes that Arlington Robinson “gives us nothing of his subject’s motives or feelings. He sketches in Cory’s gentlemanliness and his wealth, but not his despondency, and he lets the suicide seal the identity of the man forever beyond our knowing or judging”.
Again in the poem, the narrator’s self-characterization itself serves as a foil to the characterization of Richard Cory. Referring to the function of the “we” in the poem as a character, W. R. Robinson says, “in "Richard Cory," where the collective "we" speaks as a character” (34). By the narrator’s word, it is evident that the “we” refers to the majority of the commoners, in everyday life, who struggle hard for the bread and butter, as the collective narrator “we” says, “So on we worked, and waited for the light,/And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;/And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,/ Went home and put a bullet through his head” (Robinson, “Richard Cory”). In contrast with the narrator’s hardship, Richard Cory “was rich…richer than a king/ And admirably schooled in every grace” (Robinson, “Richard Cory”). The word ‘perfection’ suits best with how Richard Corey appears before the readers.