What effect does Tom have on the other characters in "Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket"?

In "Contents of the Dead Man's Pockets," Tom Benecke is so focused on work and on impressing his boss and colleagues that he is spending less time with his wife, Clare. She thinks Tom is working too hard, and she is worried about him, but she is not angry and is fine with going to the movies by herself. After his adventure on the window ledge, Tom adjusts his priorities and goes to meet Clare at the movies.

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Tom Benecke, the protagonist of Jack Finney's story "Contents of the Dead Man's Pockets" is nearly one-hundred percent focused on his work as the story begins. Yet he also has a bit of a guilty conscience. His latest project, an "idea for a new grocery-store display method," has consumed "countless hours" of his time lately, and his wife, Clare, has been feeling the effects of it.

Clare seems to be a patient, well-balanced person. She is about to head out to the movies by herself, yet she does not appear to be angry with her husband. She accepts that he has to work, but she regrets that he will miss a movie he has wanted to see. Clare also makes the comment, "You work too much, though, Tom—and too hard." She is worried about her husband, concerned that he will wear himself out.

Tom's focus on work is largely driven by his desire to impress his boss. He has not yet told anyone at work anything about his research, for he wants to both surprise and delight his superiors with the depth and breadth of his research and his fantastic idea. He hopes that his new method will bring the money "rolling in" and bring him a certain fame and respect among his colleagues. Actually, we get the idea that at this point, people may think Tom is rather odd, for he has spent many lunch hours and evenings researching at the public library and four Saturday afternoons counting supermarket customers.

Yet now, the results of all that research on a sheet of yellow paper are fluttering outside Tom's window several stories above the street. Tom has quite an adventure trying to get that paper back. When he finally succeeds (almost at the cost of his life), he has learned something important. He puts on his coat and hat and heads out to meet his wife for the movie. He has discovered that people are far more important than work and that his life could be gone in a moment. He will never get back time spent away from his loved ones. Work needs to be much less of a priority from now on.

As Tom leaves, the yellow paper again flies directly out the window. This time, Tom laughs and closes the door behind him. We can imagine the surprise and delight of Clare when Tom shows up for the movie.

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