In “Richard Cory”, Edward Arlington Robinson explores the idea that appearances can be deceiving.
Through his use of diction and irony, Robinson suggests that everyone has a different lens for viewing reality and what is seen may not actually be a reflection of actuality. Furthermore, these devices used in the poem provide us with the idea that longing for material belongings may blind us to the horrors of the reality we live him. Throughout the poem, Robinson consistently uses royal and majestic diction to describe Richard Cory as a king like figure. Richard Cory is described being “richer than a king” (9). This comparison shows that Richard Cory is affluent and has money in figures that all the towns people do not have.
Similarly, Richard Cory is portrayed as someone from “sole to crown” (3). Sole is referring to the bottom of his shoe, and crown is referring to a symbolic crown at the top of his head, showing his regal nature and majestic presence. Once again, he is constantly being related to a king like figure, as that is what he is to the townsfolk. Some of Robinson’s words in the poem uses its connotation or denotation to convey a certain meaning. In the first line, the speaker is mentions how “Richard Cory went down town” (1).
The connotation of downtown is suggesting that Richard Cory is coming down from his imperial level onto the lower and humble levels of the townsfolk. Robinson uses the exact meaning of the words, or the denotation, to place importance on the majestic qualities of Richard. This is especially clear in Robinson’s diction when describing Richard as “imperially slim” (4). and “schooled in every grace” (10). All of these descriptions and ideas about Richard Cory being someone king like are only ideas materializing in the speaker’s—which happens to be the townsfolk— mind by viewing Richard Cory from just his looks.Much like his use of connotation and denotation through his diction, Robinson also uses irony in his poem to further explore the topic of appearances versus reality.
In his specific poem, the irony created is situational irony as the reality of the situation differs from the expected effect. In this case, according to the townsfolk Richard Cory to be living a lavish life with all the material goods that one could possibly ever want. People in the town aspire to have what he has and lead a life like him. Due to the build up of such dignified and glorious descriptions, the irony of the last line of the poem is highlighted