Comparison of Poems Richard Cory and Barbie Doll

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In order to understand form in poetry, there is a need for analysis of the close adherence that exists within the centrality of themes, and how the themes form a progressive effect on the development of the poem and the parts that are related to it. It is as a consequence of this notion that the poems to be discussed herein (“Richard Cory,” by Edwin Arlington Robinson and “Barbie Doll,” written by Marge Piercy) help in the understanding of structure, form, styles and the various poetic devices employed by the poets. Robinson and Piercy ably manage to discuss to portray the power of the image as a tool for the world to view and judge others. All this happens at the expense of the subjects in the poems and the use of irony, metaphors and repetition help toward proving this.

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Richard Cory is a narrative poem that highlights the story of an individual, a rich man, who in the eyes of the world, can be seen to have it all. The people who frequently see Richard Cory are portrayed to be of a lower class and as such, they place the subject on a pedestal. There is a sense of admiration in how they view him and even want to be like him. The subject kills himself and this jolts the people of the town into realizing that the wealth is not an end to itself and perceptions might be deceiving (Leech).

The application of metaphors is succinct in how Robinson manages to create an image of Richard Cory that is not only noble but also very deceiving from the outside. It is hard to tell the mental strain that Richard Cory is going through. Robinson does describe Cory thus, [he was] “richer than a king” and “he glittered when he walked.” (Mays) These are not entirely literal statements but they go a long way in proving the status of nobility as well as a privilege that Robinson intends to pass through the poem.

Situational irony is exemplified through the poet’s development of tone as well as theme. In order to have situational irony, the situation described needs to point toward the development of an unexpected occurrence and/or a surprise (Leech). Robinson makes it clear that the subject does have it all. The depiction of the people of the town and being dotted on his status and wanting to emulate his status, points toward the same. The major twist occurs when Richard Cory kills himself. It is ironical for a person who has a life working out well for him to shoot himself in the head. The irony exists in the fact that this was a man who “still fluttered pulses when he said, Good morning, (Mays)” and the cause of him killing himself was unhappiness.

In the poem, there is a repetitive pattern. Through analysis, it can be said that six lines within the poem begin with the word “and.” (Mays) This is a very purposeful pattern and it helps that the poet uses it in order to build a mental image of who the subject really is. This consequently helps in the development of the idealized lifestyle of Richard Cory and as such placing him on a higher pedestal. The repetition is used to create a tone towards the climax, as a result, it even makes it more important to note the shock of the activities that take place toward the final lines of the poem.

Piercy’s Barbie Doll evokes question on how the society’s perceptions on body image can run down a person who societally is not considered to have a perfect body. Barbie Doll is a free verse poem and can be seen not to have any cohesive rhyme scheme which is as a result of the poem have a close in line number as well as line length (Mays). This consequently leads to the poem be as cohesive as possible.

The use of metaphors in the poem is inescapable. The poem begins with the birth of a child who is referred to as a ‘girl child’ (Mays) and in the course of her growing up, she is given almost everything she needs. The first stanza points toward the same “presented dolls that did pee-pee/ and miniature GE stoves and irons/ and wee lipsticks the color of cherry candy. (Mays)” All these are used to portray a perfect childhood for the subject does have almost everything every girl child has when growing up.

Her entrance into puberty marks a drastic change in how she is treated. Other children refer to her as having “a great big nose and fat legs.” (Mays) The society can only judge her and for her to even fit into the societal norms of what a perfect body is, she is advised to (Mays) “exercise, diet, smile and wheedles.” The irony comes into play in from this segment onwards. She is implored to have always apologized for being who she is.

Situational irony is further demonstrated at the point of her death and body viewing (Leech). The mortician had managed to ‘remodel’ her using cosmetics and everyone who viewed her at the requiem agreed that she looked pretty and the speaker describes this perfectly such, (Mays) “In the casket displayed on satin she lay/ with the undertaker’s cosmetics painted on,/ a turned-up putty nose,/ dressed in a pink and white nightie. Doesn’t she look pretty? everyone said.” The society ironically now has everything it ever wanted and to them, it does not matter the expense of them achieving this. The subject is dead, through suicide and this still does not matter to them. The last two lines, when juxtaposed with the earlier lines within the poem, are an exemplification of this saddening irony (Leech). This is a very facetious optimism that the world places on women and does act as the highlight of the depression Piercy alludes to throughout the poem.

Repetition is also applied in the poem. It is hard to miss the constant mention of the subject’s legs and nose. First, it is the fact that (Mays) “Everyone saw a fat nose on thick legs.” Second, it’s in the act of how the negativity toward her nose and legs led to her killing herself and mutilating her own body thus, “So she cut off her nose and her legs/ and offered them up.” Finally, the negative-positive restatement occurs in how she is transformed to a thing of beauty in the eyes of the society by the mortician and this is alluded to as such, (Mays) “with the undertaker’s cosmetics painted on,/ a turned-up putty nose,”.

Conclusively, the ideation of how an individual’s life is or how their bodies should remain overarching and vivid in the two poems discussed herein and the instances mentioned going a long way in proving this. Poets manage to use various devices and metaphors, repetition and irony are key among the ones employed by both Robinson and Piercy in their poems. It’s also worth mentioning that these two poems are a perfect illustration of how depression works.

Works Cited

  1. Leech, Geoffrey N. A linguistic guide to English poetry. Abingdon: Routledge, 2014. Paperback.
  2. Mays, Kelly J. The Norton introduction to literature. 12th. New York: WW Norton & Company, 2015. Hardcover.   
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Comparison of Poems Richard Cory and Barbie Doll. (2021, Apr 04). Retrieved October 3, 2022 , from

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