man's feet dangling above a window outside a building

Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket

by Jack Finney

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Compare Tom Benecke's attitude at the start and end of "Contents of the Dead Man's Pockets."

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Tom changes from a selfish man to a family-oriented man.

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In the story "Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket" by Jack Finney, Tom Benecke illustrates a round character.  He does not remain static.  Tom Benecke will not be the same man at the end of the story.

In the beginning of the story, Tom does not go...

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to the movies with his wife Clare.  He prefers to stay at home and ruminate about his project which he hopes will make him the "Wizard of Wholesale Groceries." was not actually true that he had to work tonight, though he very much wanted to. This was his own project, and it could be postponed. But then they won’t see it till Monday, and if I give it to the boss tomorrow he might read it over the weekend.

Suddenly, the paper goes out the window and sticks  on the corner ledge of his eleventh floor apartment. Tom thinks it over, and on a whim, goes out on the ledge after the paper.

Here is the dilemma.

  • His entire being is selfish. 
  • He is not sharing time with his wife that he loves. 
  • Even though, it is appropriate that he is ambitious, it is more for himself than for the good of the family.
  • Now, without thinking about anything but his beloved paper, he endangers his life. 

Where would his death leave his wife?

After the horror of his paper retrieval, Tom has grown and changed. While he was out on the ledge, he realized that he had made a number of mistakes:

  • He thought of the evenings he had spent away from Clare working; and he regretted them.
  • The foolish attempt to retrieve a piece of paper which might cause his death.
    He might fall to his death, and the police find a body with no identification but a yellow paper wadded up in his pocket. 
  • He realizes that his ambition has kept him from enjoying life while he has the chance.

When Tom makes it back inside his apartment, he is a different man.  He places the "all-important" paper on his desk with a pencil on top. As he opens the door to go find his wife, the paper again blows out the window.  This time Tom just laughs as he goes out the door toward his life.

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