What rules does Tom make up for himself when he begins work in "Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket," after the yellow sheet blows out the window of his eleventh-floor apartment, Tom Benecke decides that he is going out on the building's ledge after it.  As Tom calculates what he will do to retrieve the important worksheet.

  • He knows that he better hurry and "get this over with" before he thought too much
  • As he moves along the ledge, Tom prevents himself from thinking about what he is doing.
  • He does not permit himself to look down.
  • When he catches hold of the paper, Tom sees through his legs the street below and terror grabs him; however by sheer willpower, he forces himself to straighten up and stand.
  • To keep from fainting and save his life, Tom concentrates on staying conscious, drawing deep breaths and fighting to keep himself alert.
  • As thoughts of his death flood his mind, Tom forces his mind shut against every idea but what he must do to get back into the apartment.
  • "By a kind of trick" of his mind, Tom moves each foot methodically.
  • When he slips against the window, Tom sees everything as he had left it through the window that he cannot open.  So he tries  to alert people by shouting and lighting makeshift flare and by dropping coins to the street, Tom realizes that nothing is working, but he cannot remain on the ledge too long. 
  • So, he tests the window pane, knowing that he has only one chance to break it.  He shoots his arm forward, shouting his wife's name.
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Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket

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