How are the two settings of ledge and apartment contrasted in "Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket," and what feeling does author Jack Finney want to generate from each setting?

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Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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The most direct and illustrative contrast between the settings occurs after Tom has overcome his terror, weakness and faintness and has arrived, not without mishap, safely back at his once open apartment window. Tom is kneeling on the ledge after two near falls, the first of which dragged the window shut "under the full weight and direct downward pull of his sagging body."

Out of danger and back in balance, Tom's forehead is "pressed to the glass of the closed window." Through the glass he sees his apartment living room. He sees the wall-hangings, the davenport (sofa), a magazine and his still burning cigarette and the hallway to the bedroom where Clare was earlier getting dressed for the movie. Most dramatically of all, he sees his papers, typewriter and desk:

his papers, typewriter, and desk, not two feet from his nose.

The feelings Finney wants to ignite from this setting are ones of comfort, warmth, safety, security and successful accomplishment, even ambition. Tom's apartment is a haven where he and Clare relax and happily live. It is an inspiration where he brings to fruition ideas and aspirations leading to future good.

[Tom] couldn't escape the thought, this and other independent projects, some already done and others planned for the future, would gradually mark him out from the score of other young men ... They were the beginning of the long, long climb to where he was determined to be, at the very top.

Contrastingly, the long ledge is only as wide as his shoe is long. The brick wall offers "finger-tip grips" every five feet at shoulder level. The cold night air has a chill breeze. He is eleven stories above New York's Lexington Avenue. He shuffles perilously along sideways with his "chest, stomach, and the left side of his face pressed against the rough cold brick." It is dark out on the ledge.

One feeling Finney wants to ignite from this contrasting setting is isolation, maybe above all, isolation.

Then he was shouting "Help!" ... If anyone heard him, there was no sign of it, and presently Tom Benecke knew he had to try moving; there was nothing else he could do.

Other feelings are threat of danger, fear, desperation, regret, panic, single-minded courage, finality ("Nothing, then, could ever be changed ... -could ever be added to his life."), and determination and control. These last two are shown most clearly when he finally punches through the window with a warrior's shout of "Clare!" Regret is hinted at when he realizes if he looks at the "lighted windows across the street, he would be past help."


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