man's feet dangling above a window outside a building

Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket

by Jack Finney
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What is the foreshadowing in "Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket"?

Foreshadowing in "Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket" can be seen in the title itself, as it references Tom's thoughts on the possibility of dying in this crucial moment. Here the title can also be read as foreshadowing Tom's metaphorical death.

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There seems to be quite a bit of foreshadowing to suggest that Tom Benecke will not actually survive his ordeal on the ledge outside his eleventh-story apartment. First, there's the title of the story itself: "Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket," a title that seems designed to make the reader believe in the likelihood that Tom will, in fact, end up a dead man, with only the strange pocket contents of one yellow sheet of paper littered with "incomprehensible" facts and figures. However, the title is actually in reference to Tom's thoughts on what he believes to be his impending death, as he realizes that, if he is to fall and perish, all that will be said of him will be in relation to that piece of paper in his pocket.

If Tom falls, he will be unrecognizable, and all his time spent working rather than enjoying his life—especially with his wife—will have been for nothing. In effect, through Tom's recognition of his life prior to this moment having be wasted, he experiences a metaphorical "death" and rebirth, intent on shifting his priorities. Ultimately, the story's title foreshadows Tom's predicament and transformation.

This example of foreshadowing serves to heighten the tension the reader feels as the action continues to rise toward the climax, when Tom strikes the window with his "full power, with every last scrap of strength he could bring to bear," screaming his wife's name. Up until the moment Tom smashes through the window, it is unclear to both the reader and Tom himself whether he is going to fall from the ledge and die or find some way to safety and a new life.

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