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Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket

by Jack Finney

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In "Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket," if Finney chose to focus only on the external conflict, and had not included internal conflict, how would the story be affected?  

If Tom did not have his internal conflict, he would have been more easily able to recognize and appreciate the value of what he already had. He would not have risked being killed to retrieve the work project containing his ideas. So if Finney chose to focus only on external conflict, and had not included internal conflict, it would have been a different story in which the protagonist’s triumph was overcoming nature rather than himself.

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Your question is asking for a bit of speculation on the reader’s part. If the internal conflict is removed from Jack Finney’s short story “Contents of the Dead Man’s Pocket” it becomes a man versus elements story. Finney’s purpose with his original story is to demonstrate how Tom’s need for recognition and wealth interfere with his understanding of the importance of his relationship with his wife, and an appreciation for what they already have.

If Tom were not dealing with his inner conflict, he may not have gone out on the ledge to retrieve the piece of paper containing his notes for a work project. The project would not hold the same importance for him, so losing it out the window would not be quite as significant.

If Tom did go out on the ledge after the paper, the portions of the story that emphasized Tom’s inner feelings would be eliminated, while his physical tribulations would have been highlighted to a greater extent.  The author would have a different focus or theme for the story, which would not include Tom’s epiphany about the direction of his life. His inner conflict of wanting to rise in the corporate ranks while his wife waited in the wings for her husband’s attention would be eliminated.

Instead the author may have focused on Tom’s ability to overcome his fears while balancing on the ledge, and his triumph of retrieving the piece of paper, which contained months of research. Therefore, the focus would be on Tom’s ability to defeat the elements and to be successful in retrieving the piece of paper.

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