Wealth Envy In Richard Cory, By Edwin Arlington Robinson

1452 words - 6 pages

All too often, those who have little money envy people with more. This is depicted in “Richard Cory” written by Edwin Arlington Robinson, the narrator describes Richard as if he were royalty; rich, worldly, well spoken, and educated (677). He wished he could be Richard, and live with all the pleasures afforded the wealthy. Is it possible Richard had the reverse in his mind when he ended his life? Money appears to be a key that unlocks happiness to people on the lower end of the financial spectrum. If that were the case, then those who are well-to-do should be measurably happier. Studies give conflicting evidence as to a possible link between wealth and happiness, but for those with lower incomes it is there. While the issues plaguing the affluent are different, they struggle to be satisfied as well.
Humans are inherently competitive, always have been and always will be. This applies to all aspects of our lives beginning at an early age. In school we compete to have more friends, higher grades, be better athletes, and the list goes on. The goal is to be the best, have the most, and earn the highest. We are just beginning to prepare for our lifelong competition with the Joneses. That is, trying to amass an equal or greater level of wealth and social status than the other people in our environment. The belief being that happiness comes from having more. Studies show that fifteen percent more rich people claim to be “very happy” when compared to poor people. This gap has remained over the years with the percentages not changing while observed incomes for each group have all grown dramatically (Layard 25). This shows as individual income and wealth grow, happiness is not increased with it. If happiness were dependant on income, then the opposite should have been observed. The results of this study seem to indicate how an individual’s self-view is much more dependant on how he stacks up to the neighbors rather than compared to his own previous position. As the level of wealth grows within a community, individuals do not see themselves gaining financial ground on their competitors and neighbors. They only see what they still do not have instead of recognizing how much of a better position they are able to enjoy. This constant comparison and revealing of shortcomings can only lead to feelings of inadequacy and sadness by the thought of failing to measuring up. Keeping up and staying ahead does lead to a temporary form of satisfaction, and at the same time it highlights a new void. Once an object is attained or a milestone is reached, there is another, and another… and so on. An unending string of acquisitions that do not usher lasting happiness into one’s life.
In part, this “Joneses Syndrome” is echoed in a new study conducted by Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School. A magic income level was located, about $75,000 annually. People with incomes lower displayed increasingly unhappy tendencies as they moved...

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