Please help me compare and contrast the two settings (the living room and the ledge) from the story "Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket."If possible, can you also also explain the importance of...

Please help me compare and contrast the two settings (the living room and the ledge) from the story "Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket."

If possible, can you also also explain the importance of these two settings? Any examples directly from the story would be much appreciated!

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Jack Finney's "Contents of the Dead Man's Pockets," the two settings of the living room and that of the window ledge represent the comfortable environment of complacency and the fearful environment that holds the "moment of truth." An aspiring businessman, Tom Benecke works so much on a project that will give him a raise that he neglects his loving wife. When she prepares to go to the movies alone, he rationalizes his neglect by saying,

 "You won't mind, though, will you, when the money starts rolling in and I'm known as the Boy Wizard of Wholesale Groceries?" "I guess not," She smiled and turned back toward the bedroom.

As his wife leaves, Tom has some trouble closing the door; the opened window draws the air and Tom's yellow sheet with all the facts and figures he has worked on wafts out onto the ledge. Without considering the danger, Tom goes onto the ledge because the yellow sheet represents all his work that will bring him a raise, and his business success consumes him. At this point, Tom does not think about his being on the ledge of the eleventh floor where any slip can mean death; he just wants to get the yellow sheet of paper. However, when the window slams shut after Tom retrieves his sheet, he encounters his "moment of truth." After futile attempts to get attention by dropping coins from his pocket, Tom ponders the remaining contents of his pocket:  the single yellow sheet for which he has risked his life.  He laughs at his foolishness in having risked his life with his beloved life with Clare for the raise he has desired. 

This truth involves Tom's use of time. In the living room of his apartment, Tom has misused his time, killed it, by working on his grocery project. Out on the ledge faced with possible death, Tom realizes that his time should be spent on the true values of life: sharing moments with his loved ones. His personal relationships are far more important than business relationships.

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Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket

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