Tom is faced with an internal conflict. What is it?
While much of “Contents of the Dead Man’s Pocket” revolves around Tom Benecke’s external conflict, the drama of the external conflict is heightened by the twin internal conflicts with which the short story begins.
The first internal conflict that Tom faces is whether or not to go to the theater with his wife. This conflict manifests in the form of a heat that Tom ultimately recognizes as guilt.
The second and much longer internal conflict that Tom faces is whether or not to climb out onto the ledge of his high-rise apartment to retrieve the paper that has blown there. It is an important paper, just out of reach, and to Tom it represents both months of work and a path to success. Ultimately, the pressure to succeed at the workplace overrides Tom’s better judgment and he talks himself into climbing out of his window.
Both of these internal conflicts heighten the sense of dread and regret that Tom experiences while on the ledge. Twice Tom faces an internal conflict, and in both cases acting on them differently would have kept Tom safe during the night. This realization—by both Tom and the reader—produces a sense of regret. Ultimately, realizing the error of his ways provides Tom with the strength to smash through the window, reenter his apartment, and find his wife at the theater.
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