The Story of Richard Cory: Handsome, Rich, Famous, and a Bullet in the Head

Richard Cory is rich, famous and beautiful. Most people would give anything to be in his place. But is that enough for Richard Cory?  

“Richard Cory”

by Edwin Arlington Robinson

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.
And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
“Good-morning,” and he glittered when he walked.
And he was rich—yes, richer than a king—
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.
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.

Let me begin by saying, Edwin Arlington Robinson is a masterful poet. You do not win the Pulitzer Prize three times by chance. If you are in search of dark themes and miserable characters, he should be your go to. 

“Richard Cory” could be a story of depression as a disease rather than a circumstance. It could also be a story of not judging a book by its cover. What drove him to kill himself is left as a mystery. Perhaps it was depression. Maybe he was worse off in other circumstances. I believe the poem is better for not saying why.  Beyond leaving the poem on a shocking note, the mystery addresses the reality of suicide more than any explanation could.

You don't know who will be the next Richard Cory. Click to Tweet

This horrifying poem is a great moral lesson. It has also inspired many works of arts. My favorite is a song by Simon & Garfunkel.

Still wishing you could be someone else?