In "Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket" by Jack Finney, how does Tom force himself to concentrate? 

In "Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket" by Jack Finney, how does Tom force himself to concentrate?

 

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beateach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Jack Finney’s short story “Contents of the Dead Man’s Pocket,” Tom Benecke uses a number of techniques to force himself to concentrate as he retrieves his paper from the ledge high above Lexington Avenue.

After he goes out the window, and begins to move across the ledge, he realizes he has to move without putting much thought into his actions.

He simply did not permit himself to look down, though the compulsion to do so never left him; nor did he allow himself actually to think. Mechanically--right foot, left foot, over and again--he shuffled along crabwise, watching the projecting wall ahead loom steadily closer.

At one point, he forces himself to breathe deeply and methodically while his body shook with fear. After he gained control of his breathing, he knew that he would have to put his fear deep in the recesses of his mind. He simply stopped thinking, and forced himself to move along the ledge.

By a kind of trick--by concentrating his entire mind on first his left foot, then his left hand, then the other foot, then the other hand--he was able to move, almost imperceptibly, trembling steadily, very nearly without thought.

After he gained control of his breathing, Tom forced himself to concentrate on the motion of his body, while compartmentalizing his fear deep in his mind.

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Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket

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