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 was Tom's conflict in "Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket"?

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Tom experiences several conflicts throughout the story, both internal and external.  They include man vs. man, man vs. nature, man vs. self, and man vs. society. 

To begin, an external, man vs. man conflict is when Tom's wife wants him to join her at a movie for the evening.  However, Tom chooses to stay home to continue working.  

Another external conflict is man vs. nature.  This arises when the draft from the door closing as his wife leaves causes the sheet of paper to fly out the open window.  Tom must risk his life on the edge of the building to retrieve the important piece of paper, which brings us to the two main conflicts of the story.  

Tom's internal, man vs. man conflict revolves around how much importance he should place on his work.  He feels that what he is doing is very imporant; however, he also regrets missing quality time with his wife.  At first, Tom clearly chooses his work over his wife when he decides not to go to the movie with her.  He also puts his work first when he risks his life to recover the paper from the building's ledge.  Tom's internal conflict is also indicative of another external conflict.

Probably the most significant conflict of the story is Tom's external, man vs. society issue.  He feels that he needs to work so hard for a promotion that is not even a given.  There is no telling whether his extra work will pay off in the end; however, he feels the societal pressure to do so in the hopes of earning more money to provide a better life for his family.  

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