man's feet dangling above a window outside a building

Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket

by Jack Finney

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How does Tom's life change as a result of his ordeal on the ledge in "Contents of the Dead Man's Pockets"?

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Tom's terrifying experience on the window-ledge teaches him that he's been getting his priorities in life all wrong. He suddenly realizes that, if he should fall to his death, he'll die as a workaholic, someone who put his career ahead of his family, the most important thing in life. Tom's...

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Tom's terrifying experience on the window-ledge teaches him that he's been getting his priorities in life all wrong. He suddenly realizes that, if he should fall to his death, he'll die as a workaholic, someone who put his career ahead of his family, the most important thing in life. Tom's skewed sense of priorities is illustrated at the beginning of the story when he stays at home to work on securing a promotion, instead of going with his wife to the cinema. Tom feels bad about letting Clare go to the movies alone, but he still stays behind anyway. He's neglecting his wife, the woman he's supposed to love more than anything else in the world, for the sake of a promotion he may not even get. That it takes a near-death experience high up on a window ledge to give Tom a sense of perspective in life gives you some idea of just how badly skewed his priorities were.

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Tom Benecke's near-death experience effects his realization of what is truly valuable. Once he finally is able to re-enter the apartment, Tom takes inventory of what he has valued and what he has done.

He simply turned to his desk, pulled the curmpled yellow sheet from his pocket and laid it down where it had been, smoothing it out; then he absently laid a pencil across it to weigh it down. He shook his head wonderingly, and turned to walk to the closet.

When Tom opens the door, the wind causes the yellow sheet which has been weighed down by only a pencil, to lift into the air, and fly out into the air. Tom laughs and then closes the door behind him. His laughter, thus, demonstrates the change in Tom: he has realized what is truly important, his marriage to his wife. So, Tom ignores the yellow spreadsheet and hurries on to the cinema where he can watch a  movie with his wife.

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