What do you predict Tom will do?"Contents of the Dead Man's Pockets" by Jack Finney

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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For the author of "Contents of the Dead Man's Pockets," Jack Finney, Tom Benecke illustrates the delicate balance of what people set as their priorities as opposed to what is truly meaningful in their lives.  Tom's moment of truth on the ledge of his eleven-floor apartment causes him to realize that he has been wasting valuable time on climbing the business ladder when he should have been fostering his relationship with his wife.  Faced with the possibility of dying and losing any opportunity to be with the woman he loves, Tom mourns the death of time that he has created, and he resolves to save his life by valuing the time he has been given:

All they'd find in his pockets would be the yellow sheet. Contents of the dead man's pockets, he thought, one sheet of paper bearing penciled notations--incomprehensible.

When, fortuitously, Tom lands inside the apartment, he simply places the paper where it had been, and "shakes his head wonderingly," indicating that he is amazed at what a risk he has taken simply to earn a raise.  It is a changed man who takes his topcoat and hat and open the door to go out only to see the yellow sheet "sail out into the night and out of his life."  With the sheet gone, Tom simply laughs at his previous ridiculous thoughts and behavior.

That the author writes of the yellow sheet's being "out of his life," and that Tom laughs indicate his complete change of attitude.  Clearly, his priorities have changed and Tom will devote more time to his marriage.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

It would be easier for us to answer this question if you told us when you want this prediction -- in other words, are you asking what we would predict for him at the beginning of the story, the middle, the end, or what?  I am going to assume you are asking for a prediction at the end of the story.

I predict that Tom truly will change his ways.  I think that the experience he just had was extremely intense.  After all, he spent time out there on the ledge being sure he was going to die.  I think that this intense experience will lead him to reexamine his life and his priorities.

I think that Tom laughs at the end of the story because he realizes how ridiculously ambitious and driven he has been.  He will now go with his wife to the movies instead of having her go alone.  He will do more to enjoy his life rather than being a slave to his work.

That is my prediction for what happens after the end of the story.

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