Richard Cory Redux

by Anne Bennett on December 5, 2011

Cartoon excerpted from The New Yorker Magazine.

I’ll begin by stating the obvious: life is hard, times are tough and sometimes the glass really does appear to be half empty. Thus the man who can make light of it all is to be admired, envied, emulated.

Up until last week, Don Harman was the most popular Kansas City morning television personality, a meteorologist who for the past 12 years put a goofy spin on the weather, laughing and cavorting his way through the forecast and making it a challenge for his teammates to segue to hard news afterwards. He was the consummate jokester, simultaneously smart and silly. Life on Don’s watch had storms brewing now and then, but most of the time it was sunny.

And then last Tuesday, after doing his schtick on the noon news, Don went home and killed himself. His wife found him at about 5 pm. He was 41 years old.

Suicide is a perplexing act, but Harman’s death was especially unsettling because his on-air persona obviously belied a very troubled soul. How could he yuck his way through a telecast and then go home and take his own life?  Talk about counterintuitive!

The poem, Richard Cory, written in 1897 by Edward Arlington Robinson, tells a similar story. We cannot begin to know a man by his outward appearances. And although we’ve been told it a hundred times, money cannot buy happiness.

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
“Good-morning,” and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich – yes, richer than a king –
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

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.

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