Could Robinson Have Saved Marilyn?
Scapegoating in '^Richard Cory"
Terrell L. Tebbetts
Edwin Arlington Robinson's "Richard Cory" strikes many
readers as both simple and, at the same time, enigmatic. It can
appear simple because it seems so easily reduced to a cliche, some-
thing like "Money can't buy happiness." Yet it can appear equally
enigmatic because it seems to shed so little light on exactly what
unhappiness the title character suffered and failed to buy his way
out of Readers can guess about this unhappiness, of course. May-
be Richard Cory was an alcoholic like Robinson's brother Hernian.
Maybe he was a drug addict like Robinson's brother Dean. Maybe,
as Robinson's early biographer Hermann Hagedom guesses, he
was like other Robinson characters—Cavender, Nightingale, and
Matthias—and thus an egoist filled with "cruelty, complacency,
blindness, bewilderment, unhappiness, loneliness, remorse" (361),
a man never truly bom (362). But then, of course, readers have to
acknowledge that the poem gives them little internal evidence for
such charges, leaving them to retreat into the perceived enigma,
asserting that the poem does not reveal why the rich man couldn't
buy happiness with all his wealth. William Free, for example, sees
the poem ending in "unresolved paradox" (29). Hoyt Franchere
admits that the poem offers no clue as to "what private sense of
failure, what personal recognition of his inadequacy, or what secret
unfulfilled longing drove Cory to suicide" (85-86).
On further examination, however, the poem is not so