Who is the antagonist in “Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket”?

The antagonist of “Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket” is Tom Benecke, for he goes through a severe internal battle as he creeps along the outside ledge of his apartment, trying to retrieve his yellow sheet of paper.

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In “Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket,” the protagonist and the antagonist are actually the very same person: Tom Benecke.

Tom is something of a workaholic. He has been developing a plan for a new grocery display that he hopes will increase sales and earn him more money...

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In “Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket,” the protagonist and the antagonist are actually the very same person: Tom Benecke.

Tom is something of a workaholic. He has been developing a plan for a new grocery display that he hopes will increase sales and earn him more money and the esteem of his superiors and coworkers. Tom has been writing all of his research data on a sheet of yellow paper, and on the evening of the story, he is determined to complete his work so that he can get the whole thing turned in to his boss. But this means that Tom's wife, Clare, has to go to the movies by herself, and Tom feels guilty about this, although he suppresses the guilt in favor of his desire to work. Here we can see some internal conflict.

As Clare leaves, Tom's yellow sheet of paper gets caught up in a wind gust and flies right out the window. Since Tom lives in a high-rise apartment, this is a big problem, for he must go out onto the ledge to try to retrieve the paper. It is one of the hardest things that Tom has ever done, deciding to go out the window and chase after that paper. He has nothing that can reach it. It is stuck in a corner. Yet that paper contains all of his notes, and he must have it. So he conquers his hesitancy (but not his fear) and follows the paper out the window.

Tom now enters into a full-out battle with his fear. As he struggles to navigate the ledge and catch his paper, he fights the desire to look down, trying desperately to keep his nerves steady and focus on what he is doing, one shuffling step at a time. He is soon shaking, gritting his teeth, and striving to maintain his self-control and not lose consciousness. He is absolutely terrified.

When Tom finally gets the paper, he realizes that he cannot find the strength to walk back. He manages to ease his way back, very, very slowly. Then, almost losing his battle with his terror, he begins taking quick, nearly blind steps, and he stumbles. He manages to catch himself but then makes the horrible discovery that the window has almost closed and is firmly stuck. Again, Tom is left battling himself and his horror. He cannot even hope that Clare will save him when she gets home, because she can never open that window by herself; it is too sticky.

As he crouches on the ledge, stranded, Tom begins to think about his life and how much time he has wasted. He looks through his pockets and thinks about the worthless things in them. He wishes he had gone with Clare to the movies. He thinks about how death has finally come to meet him. Finally, in an act of almost sheer desperation, Tom manages to drive his fist through the glass, and he falls into the living room. He doesn't even care that the yellow paper flies out the window again. In fact, he laughs, for Tom Benecke has conquered himself in more ways than one.

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