At the beginning of Jack Finney's short story The Contents of the Dead Man's Pockets, what did Tom do that might lead someone to judge him as untruthful?

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Jack Finney, in his short story The Contents of the Dead Man's Pockets, suggests early-on that his main protagonist, Tom Benecke, is at least a little duplicitous, although in a somewhat harmless way. Tom was planning to attend a movie with his wife, Clare, but backed out so that he could spend some time that evening working on a project related to his job -- a product the successful completion of which could help him advance in the company for which he works. The first suggestion of Tom's willingness to engage in subterfuge involves his realization that, hot as it feels in his and Clare's apartment, the real heat he feels emanates from within himself:

"'Hot in here,' he muttered to himself. Then, from the short hallway at his back, he heard the muffled clang of wire coat hangers in the bedroom closet, and at this reminder of what his wife was doing he though: Hot, no--guilty conscience."

The above quote is from the story's opening paragraph, so the reader is quickly apprised of the main character's nature. Very soon following that opening hint of Tom's character, Finney provides further evidence of his protagonist's questionable integrity. Saying good-bye to Clare, who has dressed in her finer clothes and applied perfume for her night at the movies, Tom begins to reconsider his decision to stay home and work:

". . .he was tempted to go with her; it was not actually true that he had to work tonight, though he very much wanted to . . ."

This second passage provides further evidence of Tom's duplicitous nature -- although his shading of the truth is clearly not intended to hurt Clare in any way. On the contrary, he loves her, and would no doubt like to accompany her to the movies, but feels internally-imposed pressure to complete his project for work.

Read the study guide:
Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket

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