man's feet dangling above a window outside a building

Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket

by Jack Finney

Start Free Trial

In "Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket," what incident starts the conflict?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Jack Finney includes both external and internal conflict in his short story “Contents of the Dead Man’s Pockets.”

The external conflict is initiated when Tom Benecke, the protagonist, watches as his slip of yellow paper fly out the window. The yellow paper contains work which consumed Tom’s spare time for months. He had a grand plan to achieve wealth and fame as he advanced his employment even if it meant short changing his relationship with his wife. The protagonist watches as the paper lands outside on the ledge of his eleventh story apartment building on Lexington Avenue in New York City. Tom’s efforts to retrieve the paper by balancing on the ledge overhanging the street create great physical challenges.  As he makes his way along the ledge, he faces a series of physical obstacles until the paper is retrieved and he is able to return to his apartment.

The internal conflict arises within Tom as he is balancing on that ledge and faces death. He realizes how skewed his view of life is. His obsession on advancing at work takes his focus off of his lovely wife whom he loves dearly.

Both the internal and external conflicts provide parallel themes in the story.  Tom is physically trying to save himself while balancing on the ledge while having a revelation about finding balance in one’s life.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team