The author of "Contents of the Dead Man's Pockets" noted how materialism grew in the 1950's after World War II, and he became disturbed by how much the drive for material success and for possessions was absorbing people. Consequently, Finney's protagonists find themselves trapped in the modern, technological world and return to their families and a more natural and simpler life.
In his rather long story, Finney illustrates how Tom Benecke loses sight of what really matters in his life as he stresses his advancement in business to the exclusion of his wife and their married life. Tom is so obsessed with gaining a promotion that when all his data which he has collected for weeks wafts out his eleventh story window, he steps out onto the ledge of the apartment building and risks death in order to retrieve it. Unfortunately, while he is out there, the window he has opened slams shut.
It would be four hours before she could possibly be home, and he tried to picture himself kneeling out her, fingertips hooked to these narrow strippings....
Tom knows he cannot wait until Tom's wife Clare returns home. It will be too late. When he realizes that he could die out there, Tom thinks about his "wasted life." Finally, he is able to break the window and enter his apartment. Tom knows now that "the most important things in life are not things." This theme is at the heart of the story. The material object has no value unless you give it to someone. This is truly a theme.