Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket Questions and Answers
by Jack Finney

Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket book cover
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What is the setting of "Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket?"

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The setting of the story is an apartment on Lexington Avenue near 50th Street on Manhattan's East Side. Tom Benecke lives in this 11th floor apartment with his wife, Clare. Much of the story takes place on the ledge outside his apartment. Tom watches a yellow paper that he needs to complete his work towards a promotion at work fly out of the window. It lands against the corner that is formed by his apartment and the living room of the apartment that is south of his, as the other apartment projects out a yard beyond his own apartment. Tom walks out on the ledge that leads about 15 feet to where the sheet is plastered against the corner formed by the two walls. The ledge is about as wide as his shoe, and each fifth row of brick is indented half an inch, leading him to believe he can maintain his grasp as he walks along the ledge to retrieve the lost yellow paper.

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The place setting of Jack Finney's short story "Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket" is New York City, specifically a high rise apartment building on Lexington Avenue on the city's East Side. The time setting is post–World War II, the mid-1950s.

Colloquially abbreviated as "Lex," Lexington Avenue is a large street located on New York's East Side in the borough of Manhattan. Manhattan, of course, is today an area of New York with a high cost of living; however, at the time of Finney's story, which was published in 1956, this area was populated more by a rising middle-class that emerged after the war when there was a strong economy. Finney perceived this era as one in which men became overly concerned about material possessions and success, much to the detriment of family life. His main character in this story, Tom Benecke, spends hours each weekend working on his grocery store project rather than occupying his time with his wife. It is only after he risks his life to retrieve his yellow worksheet which blows out the window of his eleventh-floor apartment that Tom realizes the absurdity of basing his existence upon monetary success.

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