Instructor: S. J. Glassberg
"Society's Mindless Assumptions in "Nikki Rosa" and "Richard Cory"
Nikki Giovanni's " Nikki Rosa " and Edwin Arlington Robinson's " Richard Cory " both reveal that monetary wealth does not bring forth happiness . Each poem embodies unexpected conclusions which lead the reader to realize that the true lives of the speaker are misconceived by society's narrow minded use of assumption and face values . Richard Cory, a wealthy and unhappy man, and Nikki Rosa, a poor yet happy child, are both judged by their wealth or lack of wealth, proving that one can not simply judge a person by appearances .
Nikki Rosa is a poem about a black woman reminiscing her poor, childhood upbringings and expressing how a white person can not understand her true happiness.In the poem " Nikki Rosa," the opening statement, " childhood remembrances are always a drag / if you're Black, " immediately display's the writers attitude on society's negative view of growing up as a poor black child . ( Lines 1 and 2 ) The speaker feels white biographers see black children as unhappy, uneducated, and deprived of chances in life due to a lack of money and material possessions . The speaker emphasizes being " Black ''(1), " living in Woodlawn ''(3), and " as the whole family attended meetings in Hollydale "(13), thus showing the importance of the family as opposed to money . The capitalization of Black ,Woodlawn, and Hollydale show the importance to the speaker while Chicago is left uncapitalized showing the speaker does not care about taking baths in the " big tubs that folk in chicago barbeque in " ( 9 ). Line nine portrays the speaker's poverty with Nikki Rosa remembering bathing in what wealthy people prepare food in . " and though you're poor it isn't poverty that / concerns you " lets the reader know that money is not a main concern . The poem goes further to state " Black love is Black wealth Ã¢â‚¬Â¦", meaning when one is poor, money is not the main concern but more focus is placed on family love and memories shared ( 25 ). The quick assumptions that Nikki Rosa grew up unhappy due to poverty is proved incorrect with the least expected last line, " all the while I was quite happy, " ( 27 ) .The speaker disproves society's assumptions that poverty equals unhappiness when she states her life to be rich with memories and love, neither which can be purchased with money .
In contrast to Nikki Giovanni's "Nikki Rosa", describing a poor child who seems unhappy, " Richard Cory, " a poem by Edwin Arlington Robinson describes a man who seems to have it all . The reader and less fortunate " people on the pavement Ã¢â‚¬Â¦ " assume Richard Cory is " a gentleman from sole to crown , " due to monetary wealth . ( 2 ,3 ) Richard Cory's wealth makes others regard him as well bred , attractive , tasteful , educated , graceful and most of all , happy . A man who is always " Clean favored , and imperially slim . " ," quietly arrayed " and " rich - yes richer than a king - " , could be nothing but happy in society's eyes . ( 4 , 5 , 9 ) People in the community assume Richard Cory is and has " everything "(11) and " wish that we were in his place "(12). While striving to be like him, the people work hard, making sacrifices in hopes to eventually gain the " happiness " Cory appears to have . No one ever suspects Richard Cory's grim reality . The sing - song ABAB rhyme scheme eases the reader with a smooth rhythm that flows to an abrupt and least expected ending , just like Richard's life, " one calm summer night, / went home and put a bullet through his head . " ( 15 , 16 ) A wealthy and prestigious man is seen as a happy man due to society's attitudes and assumptions towards money . Society never suspects Richard Cory's true state of being because he is rich . The last two lines shock the reader and prove society wrong in their assumptions that money brings happiness .
The poems " Nikki Rosa " and " Richard Cory " both use money or the lack of money to show that appearances do not always reflect reality . Each poem displays situational irony, where there is a contradiction between what is expected to happen and what actually happens due to forces beyond human comprehension or control . Society incorrectly judges the happiness of each character because of the amounts of money each owns . Nikki Rosa, a poor child, is misjudged as having an unhappy childhood because poverty stricken but found to be rich with memories and love . Richard Cory, a wealthy man, is misjudged as happy but found dead by suicide, a poor and lonely escape . Each poem uses the characters as examples to remind society not to judge people by images or money because appearances do not always reflect reality .
Giovanni, Nikki. "Nikki-Rosa." The Bedford Introduction To Literature. Third Ed. Michael Meyer. Boston: Bedford Books of St. Martins Press, 1993. 613.
Robinson, Edwin Arlington. "Richard Cory." The Bedford Introduction To Literature. Forth Ed. Michael Meyer. Boston: Bedford Books of St. Martins Press, 1996. 698.