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"Richard Cory" conceals its powerful particularity by appearing almost tritely conventional. But since the surprise ending of Cory’s suicide does not, after a first reading, surprise anyone but the "we" of the poem, it is worth looking for deeper causes of its hold on readers. One the one hand, there is Robinson’s tact in presenting the title figure. By his scheme, moral blindness is overcome, not by factitious insight into another mind, but by respectful recognition of another person. So he avoids the nineteenth-century, common-sense method of realistic characterization and 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. On the other hand, he can characterize the chorus just because they lack individuality, and he invites us to judge their blindness on pain of missing the one sure meaning of the poem:

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.

They do not serve who only work and wait. Those who count over what they lack and fail to bless the good before their eyes are truly desperate. The blind see only what they can covet or envy. With their mean complaining, they are right enough about their being in darkness, and their dead-gray triviality illuminates by contrast Cory’s absolute commitment to despair.