What is the climax, falling action, and resolution of "Contents of a Dead Man's Pocket"?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Jack Finney's short story about post World War II obsession with materialism depicts the existential absurdity of basing one's existence upon monetary sources.

After Tom Benecke values one particular yellow sheet, upon which he has recorded facts and figures for two months, more than his own safety, because he ventures out in the darkness on the ledge of his eleventh floor apartment where it has blown, he begins to realize the folly of what he has done. 

CLIMAX

On the ledge there is much emotional intensity as Tom feels great fear: 

...a violent instantaneous explosion of absolute terror roared through him....and he began to tremble violently, panic flaring through his mind and muscles, and he felt the blood rush from the surface of his skin.

But, as intense as this moment is, the point at which Tom's fear waxes even more occurs when Tom discovers that the window through which he has passed in order to grab his yellow sheet has slammed shut, and he is stranded out on the ledge.

FALLING ACTION 

Since the falling action consists of all of the events that follow the climax, the efforts of Tom to break the window are included. Tom stares at the window: "it was not possible that there wasn't a way past it." Yet, Tom feels terror creeping into his heart; he knows he must keep his emotions at bay. He tests the window with a coin, but it does not break; nor does striking the window with his shoe bring any success. Then he becomes aware that he may have to wait for Clare to return; however, reality strikes him as he recognizes that he cannot wait on a ledge for four hours; for, he would eventually fall. 
Gradually, as he balances between life and death, Tom Benecke reflects upon his ambitions and his marriage experiencing an epiphany. If he were to fall all that would be found would be 

....one sheet of paper bearing penciled notations--incomprehensible

Tom understands that he may very well die, and with this revelation he wishes that he "had not allowed his wife to go off by herself tonight--and on similar nights."

Tom, then, vows to not cling onto the ledge until he falls; he must break through the glass.

RESOLUTION

Tom devises his plan to break the glass; envisioning his fist going through the glass of the window. Finally, he knows he must break through the pane and the time has come to try. With all his power, he breaks the glass, and climbs into his home, "grinning in triumph."

While he does not lie down on the carpet as he planned, he instead grabs his topcoat and hat so that he can go out and join his wife at the cinema. But, as he starts out the door, the yellow sheet flies through the open window. This time Tom just laughs and closes the door behind him.

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