How do the two settings of living room and ledge in "Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket" by Jack Finney create suspense?

Expert Answers
Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The living room setting creates suspense in several ways. The first is the thematically related juxtaposition of Tom's desk to Clare's dressing room. This juxtaposition pits comfort and home against generating ideas and ambition. This adds suspense because it illustrates the thematic tension in Tom's life.

The room creates suspense because the sheet of yellow paper Tom carefully lays out is endangered once the window is forced open because of the heat in the room (radiating in from the warmed building hallway); some readers will even think, "Put a paper weight on it!"). The stubborn front door directly across from the open window, with the unweighted yellow paper between, creates more suspense because some readers can foresee what may happen when heat meets cold and an open window.

The ledge creates suspense by being a ledge eleven stories above Lexington Avenue in New York City. There is not much more required of an eleventh story ledge than to be itself to create suspense. Finney does add more suspenseful elements to the ledge setting though. He adds wind and cold. He adds isolation. Tom's shouts cannot be heard. His lighted letters are not seen. His dropped coins are not felt. Though people are behind the lighted windows across the street on the other side of Lexington, none see Tom outside their windows. Tom's isolation is complete and suspense is created around his need for help, especially after he scrapes his head.

The construction of the ledge creates suspense. The ledge is as wide as Tom's shoe is long. The outer brick walls of the building have hand-holds, but they are five feet apart and are "indented half an inch." Though it is only mentioned once, another way the setting of the ledge creates suspense is that from the ledge, when Tom bends to pick up the yellow paper, he sees Loew's theater. Though not explicitly stated, Finney implies this is where Clare went to watch the double feature Tom "wanted to see too." This creates suspense because we wonder if Tom will ever see Clare again.

He saw, in that instant, the Loew's theater sign, blocks ahead past Fiftieth Street;

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

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question