man's feet dangling above a window outside a building

Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket

by Jack Finney

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Does "Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket" end well for Tom Benecke?

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The story "Contents of  Dead's Mans Pocket" by Jack Finney draws the reader into  both an internal and external conflict which the main character Tom Benecke faces.  The story told in third person point of view uses an outside narrator to tell the story.

The protagonist Tom has been working hard on a project.  His work lies on his desk.  Suddenly, the paper blows out the window. This represents to Tom many hours and his future in his company. Here lies his internal conflict:  He aspires to be the "Wizard of Wholesale Groceries."

His decision to go out on the  ledge [the size of Tom's foot] of his apartment which is eleven stories high extends far beyond dangerous.  It is madness. This is the external conflict which challenges our hero.

He simply did not permit himself to look down, though the compulsions to do so never left him; nor did he allow himself actually to think. Mechanically—right foot, left foot, over and again—he shuffled along crabwise, watching the projecting wall ahead loom steadily closer...

He finally retrieves the paper.  Then he looks down, realizes the jeopardy that he is in, and freezes in place.  Of course, eventually, he pulls himself together...crawls inch by inch back to the window of his apartment.  While he set there, he thought what would the police find went they found his dead body if he fell?  What were the contents of a the dead man's body? A wadded up yellow piece of paper--He had no identification on him. 

When he gets to the apartment, Tom has to break the window to get back inside.  After his relief, he places the infamous yellow wadded page on his desk with a pencil on top. 

After all this trouble, Tom realizes that he has lost precious  time that should have been spent with his wife whom he loves.  He decides to go to the movie theater and find her and spend the evening with her. Just as he opens the door, the yellow paper flies out the window again.  Tom laughs and shuts the door heading for his life.

What motivates people to do such risky things?  Ambition, greed, loss of values--any of these things can send someone to the brink of disaster.  However, for Tom, there was a happy ending.  He was intuitive enough to see that his happiness really was with his wife at the movies.  An appreciation of what one has usually leds to a successful life!




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