man's feet dangling above a window outside a building

Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket

by Jack Finney
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Why is this story called “Contents of the Dead Man’s Pocket”?

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In addition to the answers already given, I believe that the author chose that title for his story because, once Tom is out on that ledge, the reader naturally expects him to fall. The title seems to predict that he is going to fall to his death and that the...

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In addition to the answers already given, I believe that the author chose that title for his story because, once Tom is out on that ledge, the reader naturally expects him to fall. The title seems to predict that he is going to fall to his death and that the police will go through his pockets in order to identify him. It is a little deceptive, but the author justifies the title by showing that it is something the terrified man is only imagining. The situation is frightening enough without the title, but the title makes it even more frightening for the reader, who is identifying with Tom and imagining that he himself (the reader) is out on that ledge clinging to the brick wall, afraid to look down, forcing himself to move inch by inch, because there is no one to help him but himself.

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Tom imagines what would be said about him if he plunged to his death. It would be natural to look for identification, and anyone who did so would simply find the interoffice memo, and no other defining possessions or indication of who Tom was.

The title is ironic, because Tom survives, but his experience teaches him something incredibly valuable: to not be a man defined by his work. The memo had illegible scribblings on it. It was significant of nothing. If Tom were to leave his apartment now and get struck by a bus, he would be the man going to meet his wife at the movies, not the man stuck at home working during a weekend. The contents of his pocket(and symbolically, his life) would be much different.

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