What details in "Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket" relate to heat and cold?

bohemianteacher4u | Student

At the beginning of the story "Contents of a Dead Man's Pocket,"  Tom Benecke is inside his apartment.  He has been working on a project but as the room warms he becomes hot.

"Hot in here," he muttered to himself.

Tom's wife, Clare, puts on her coat as she prepares to leave the house to attend a movie.  Her actions indicate to the reader that the outside is colder than the inside of the house.  Also, the season in the story is autumn. As the temperature increases, Tom opens a window.

"Hot, no--guilty conscience."

The reference to not having a guilty conscience represents Tom not having feelings of guilt associated with spending so many extra hours on his project and not accompanying his wife to the movies.  

When Clare opens the door to leave the wind pushes warm air through the house, creating a current that leads to Tom's project paper blowing out of the window and onto the ledge.

Tom is desperate to retrieve the paper on which he had spent many hours listing numbers.  He climbs out his window and onto the building ledge that is 11 stories above the ground.  Once outside he begins to feel the cold.

"The feeling on his face the sudden change from the warm air of the room to the chill outside."

"He stood on the ledge outside in the slight, chill breeze drawing deliberate deep breaths of cold air into his lungs."

Tom is no longer safely tucked away in his warm apartment.  Instead, he finds himself facing death on a ledge because of a paper that he had once thought of as important.  He struggles to hold onto the ledge, but his fingers are becoming colder.

"His shivering hands--numb, cold, and desperately rigid--"

As his dilemma progresses, he finally resorts to smashing the window with his fist, breaking the glass. The warm air becomes a symbol of safety.

"Then he slid the fingers of his shivering left hand a corresponding distance. Warm air from the hall rushed through the narrow opening again."

Read the study guide:
Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket

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