How do Tom's actions at the end of the story show that the experience has changed him?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The main action of Jack Finney's "Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket" is predicated on the protagonist's absorption in rising in the corporate world. On a sheet from a yellow pad, the ambitious Tom Benecke has recorded data gleaned from "snatched half hours at work and during evenings at home"; he uses his facts, quotations, and figures on that sheet to design his new idea for a method of grocery-store displays. Countless hours are represented on this sheet that contains his dream of moving up in business. So, when this sheet wafts out the window that he opens, Tom does not think rationally; instead, he goes out onto the ledge of his eleventh floor apartment to retrieve it. 

After a harrowing experience, Tom snatches the yellow sheet and retreats to his window which has slammed shut. Somehow he is able to keep his balance and break the glass in order to return to the living room. 

He simply turned to his desk, pulled the crumpled yellow sheet from his pocket and laid it down where it had been...He shook his head wonderingly and turned to walk to the closet. 

Tom gets his overcoat and hat, opens the door and steps out to catch his wife at the movies. However, just as he does so, the warm air from the hall rushes into the apartment and again the yellow paper sails out the broken window.

Tom Benecke burst into laughter and then closed the door behind him.

Having foolishly risked his life the first time that the paper rushed out the window, Tom now realizes that no object is worth going out on the eleventh-floor ledge. He laughingly scoffs at himself for having endangered his life for this mere sheet of paper that so easily eludes him. Now he knows that the life he has and the love of his wife are what is truly important, not a yellow sheet with facts and figures. He has changed his priorities.

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