In the story  "Contents Of a Dead Man's Pocket" by Jack Finney,  does Tom face an internal conflict or an external conflict? 

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Jack Finney's story "The Contents of a Dead Man's Pocket" involves a hard working protagonist, Tom Benecke.  The story, told in third person, centers on the thoughts and actions of Tom. He loves his wife, but right now work is more important to Tom. 

Tom has been working on a special project which he hopes will make him the "Wizard of Wholesale Groceries."  After many hours of research, he has written his proposal.  Clare, his wife, wants to go to a movie, but Tom tells her that he has to work.  He really does not need to work, but Tom is obsessed with his proposal. 

The first conflict that Tom encounters is external: Man versus nature. The wind blows his all-important paper out the window. The paper lands on the corner of the ledge outside of his eleventh floor apartment. Tom analyzes the situation, throws caution to the wind, and climbs out on the ledge which is as wide as his shoe. Without looking down, Tom edges his way to the corner.

Mechanically--right foot, left foot, over and again--he shuffled along crabwise, watching the projecting wall ahead loom steadily closer.

Just as he grabs the paper, panic sets in. Here is his next internal conflict: Man versus himself.  Tom is frozen.  Why has he done this? He can die and lose everything.  What if he falls and they find him without any identification?

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. 

Mustering up all his courage, Tom knows he has to get back to the window.  Again, inching his way back, internally, he thinks:

Contents of the dead man's pockets, with sudden fierce anger, a wasted life.

Kneeling, Tom inches his way back to the window.  Fate intervenes again. The window is almost shut.  Tom is going to have to break it with his fist/arm in order to get inside.  When he falls inside his apartment, he knows what he has to do.  Tom lays the paper on his desk with a pencil on top of it and heads for the door to find Clare.

Wait, nature and fate intervene again. The wind picks up the paper and sucks it out the window. How does our hero react? Tom bursts into laughter and goes to the movies.  Tough lesson learned: live life, do not wish and work it away. 

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