Harsh Childhood Leads to Pessimistic Writing A major theme throughout Edwin Arlington Robinson’s poetry is his consistent mentioning of the torture of human life and grave problems that people collide with during their lifetime. This is prevalent in his poems such as _Richard Cory, Miniver Cheevy, Mr. Flood’s Party. _ Common issues in his themes include loneliness, problems due to excessive alcoholism, and suicide. Robinson’s grim themes throughout his poetry can be contributed to his harsh lifestyle while growing up.
Early on, Edwin’s brother Dr. Dean Robinson suddenly died of a drug overdose. His other brother, Herman Robinson also died later on along with his mother who died of diphtheria. While at Harvard University, his father passed away which forced Edwin to become the male figure around the household. So many deaths in his family before he was even thirty years old, made it difficult for Edwin to live a “normal” life. Edwin continually faced death throughout his younger years which inspired pessimistic attributes to his poetry.
Robinson’s Richard Cory presents a solemn theme about a suicide, often believed to be connected with his brother Herman Robinson’s death. Robinson sets up the story by describing the main character, Richard Cory, as a perfect man. “He was a gentleman from sole to crown…And he was rich—yes, richer than a king, And admirably schooled in every grace/ To make us wish that we were in his place. ” (Lines 3,9,10,12). Then in the last line of the poem, “Went home and put a bullet through his head. ” (Line 16).
Robinson uses this short story within a poem to depict how a person who looks like everything is amazing on the outside, can still have serious emotional problems on the inside which could lead to problems such as suicide. A moral that comes out of this poem is, do not judge a book by its cover. Many readers of this poem believe that it is connected with his brother, Herman Robinson because he presents what would be his brother as a very successful person, but his emotional problems overcame him and drove him to a suicidal end to his life.
Richard Cory has a pessimistic feel as a man who seems to have everything going for him and then just decides to end his life. Miniver Cheevy is a poem written by Robinson about a man who believes the world has caused his problems and it portrays problems such as alcoholism and loneliness. Robinson sets up the story with miniver being sad, “He wept that he was ever born/ Miniver loved the days of old/ Miniver sighed for what was not” (Lines 3, 5, 9). Miniver has a feeling of nostalgia in the poem as he wishes things were the way they were back then before all of this happened to him.
By the mood of the poem, a sense of loneliness can be felt for Miniver. Miniver is sad in the way things have turned out for him and he goes on to explain how he got here, “Miniver cursed the commonplace/ Miniver coughed and called it fate. ” (Lines 21 and 31). Miniver starts to blame the world for his mishaps, but then realizes it was supposed to happen because it is fate. Miniver Cheevy is a name that means an underachiever, but after Robinson writes, “And kept on drinking. ” (Line 32) the compassion once felt for Miniver is lost after finding out that his excessive drinking has caused his downturn in life.
Another moral floats out of this poem, that is alcohol is never a good thing and can really mess up your life. Another poem by Robinson that promotes the pessimistic theme and/or feeling is Mr. Flood’s Party which deals with life issues like loneliness and alcoholism. Robinson starts out by showing the character’s, Eben, loneliness, “Old Eben Flood, climbing alone one night/ Alone, as if enduring to the end/ he stood in the middle of the road. ” (Lines 1, 17, 19) The title gives a feeling that a party is occurring while all of this is happening which further proves Eben’s loneliness.
The way the words are put together in the poem give a feeling of sadness that Eben feels about his life. To make matters worse, Robinson has Eben try to drink off his problems multiple times, “Drink to the bird/ the jug he had gone so far to fill/ We had a drop together/ he raised the jug again regretfully. ” (Lines 13, 14, 36, 51). Robinson uses alcohol to make the situation worse for the main character as he did in Miniver Cheevy. The constant mentioning of drinking beer has the feeling that Eben is an excessive alcohol drinker.
In a way, Eben’salcoholism ends up increasing his loneliness when Robinson says, “There was not much that was ahead of him/ And there was nothing in the town below/ where strangers would have shut the many doors/ that many friends had opened long ago. ” (Lines 53-56). It seems as though nobody wants to talk to Eben anymore because he has become such a drunk. Alcohol can effect your life in many ways, including how people interpret you is a strong moral taken from this poem. Edwin Arlington Robinson’s poetry has a pessimistic feel, but throughout a certain number of his poems lays a moral.
Comparing his life story along side these morals that have been discovered in his poetry, there is a connection. In a way, it seems as though by writing these poems he is trying to prevent people from making the same mistakes as him. He often talks about alcoholism in his poetry and the mistakes it causes, because it played a role in his life. Also loneliness is a huge theme throughout his poetry and that can be contributed to his lack of family members by age thirty as his mother, father, and numerous brothers were already buried by then which left him home alone.