How would you analyse Tom in "Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket"?  

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Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Tom Benecke is a young married man who lives in New York City and works hard to advance his business career. Details in the story suggest that Tom works in marketing; in the story he has spent four Sundays of his free time researching the display of products in a supermarket in order to design a more effective method. Tom hopes his initiative will impress his boss and that his efforts will be rewarded.

Tom's efforts show that he is ambitious and hard working. He is also self-disciplined and focused; he stays home from the movies to work on his project, sending his wife Clare to the movies without him. Tom loves Clare and really wanted to go, but he is willing to make sacrifices in order to succeed in his career.

Once Tom finds himself trapped on the ledge, other aspects of his character emerge. He is a logical thinker and tries to deal with his problem by reasoning his way to a solution. He tries one method after another, first to attract someone's attention to his dangerous situation and then to figure out how to break the window to get back inside his apartment. He fights his own fear in order to save his own life.

When Tom finally crashes through the window and is safely inside once again, he has experienced a profound change. He has realized how empty his life has become by focusing so completely on his job and financial success. His values have changed. He leaves his work behind and goes to meet Clare at the movies. When his life was endangered, Tom realized what was most important to him.

The conclusion of the story is very ironic. Retrieving the scrap of paper with his research notes was the cause of Tom's climbing out onto the ledge, risking his life. When the story ends, the same piece of paper flys out the window again, but Tom no longer cares about it very much at all.

Read the study guide:
Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket

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