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Explain Tom Benecke's character?

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dbala123 | Student, Grade 10 | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 14, 2011 at 11:51 AM via web

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Explain Tom Benecke's character?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 14, 2011 at 2:00 PM (Answer #1)

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Jack Finney wrote his story "Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket" during the post World War II business boom of the 1950s.  This business culture of the fifties saw many a man aspiring to success through long hours of work to the neglect of their families.  Living in an upscale apartment in the city, Tom Benecke represents these men.  He has been spending his leisure hours gathering facts and figures having stood on four long Saturday afternoon in supermarkets as he scribbled all his notations upon a yellow sheet. Through copious trade publications, page by page, he has compiled his data upon this sheet when he should have spent time with his wife.

So consumed with this project is Tom that he sends his neglected wife on to the movies with the promise of meeting her later.  However, when she opens the door to leave, a draft from the doorway and the open window stirs all the papers on Tom's desk.  It teasingly draws the yellow sheet to it, catches it against its pane, then lures it to the window ledge where it slides out of sight. It is with absolute dismay that Tom watches the flight of the yellow sheet.  Incredulous that he has lost all the labors of so many hours, Tom debates what to do; ultimately, he risks his life for a chance at a better business position.

Since his foremost goal is success, Tom ponders that this and other independent projects are the means to

mark him out from the score of other young men in his company.  They were the way to change from a name on the payroll to a name in the minds of the company officials....And he knew he was going out there in the darness, after the yellow sheet fifteen feet beyond his reach.

Driven to succeed in business, Tom risks his life for a foolish yellow sheet.  After he nearly kills himself in the effort to retrieve it, he reaches his apartment.  Donning his coat to reach his dear wife, whom he has learned to appreciate while on the eleventh floor ledge, he watches the paper waft back out of the broken window.  This time Tom laughs and closes the door behind him.  He has learned now what is of value, and it is not the yellow sheet.

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