man's feet dangling above a window outside a building

Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket

by Jack Finney

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How does Tom in "Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket" attract attention?

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Tom attempts to attract attention in several ways. First, he tries shouting for help. Then, he tries lighting some papers on fire and waving them like a kind of torch or beacon. Finally, Tom tries dropping coins from his pocket to the street below. None of these strategies work.

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Initially, after Tom becomes completely paralyzed by fear, he tries to shout for help to attract the attention of people on the street some eleven stories below him. However, between the sound of the traffic and the wind's "steady pressure," he knows that his cries have no real chance of being heard by anyone. If the wind didn't carry them away before they reached the street, the roaring of the cars would smother them. It also occurs to him how often he hears strange cries and yells in the streets of the city, and he simply ignores them.

Tom slowly and painstakingly makes his way along the ledge back to the window outside his apartment, but it slams shut. He sees that, across the street, a man is visible, sitting inside his own apartment. Tom finds a few papers in his pocket, along with a packet of matches. He twists the papers together and lights them with a match, creating a kind of torch, which he waves back and forth behind him, hoping to get the man's attention. This fails. Tom also finds a handful of coins in his pocket, and he drops them, a few at a time, hoping to attract the attention of someone below, but this tactic fails as well. Finally, Tom resolves to breaking the window with his fist, though this means risking falling off the ledge entirely.

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How does Tom try to attract attention? Why is he unsuccessful?

In “Contents of a Dead Man’s Pocket” by Jack Finney, Tom Benecke makes a number of attempts to garner attention to his situation on the ledge of his apartment building.

At first, as Tom is perched on the ledge high above Lexington Avenue, he attempts to cry out for help. He waits for a lull in the traffic noise of the busy thoroughfare below him before he calls for help. Unfortunately, his attempt is futile as the wind carries his calls away.

In his next attempt, he reaches into his pocket and pulls out an envelope and a book of matches. Working carefully, he finagles a way to light the envelope on fire, hoping to attract the attention of a man reading a paper in a window across the way. The wind blows the small flame out, and Tom realizes no one would notice such a small flare. He tries three more times with pieces of paper from his pocket.

Finally, Tom takes coins out of his pocket and drops them to the ground, hoping to attract the attention someone on the sidewalk below him. Again, he is unsuccessful, because no one notices the coins.

There were a dozen coins in Tom Benecke's pocket and he dropped them, three or four at a time. But if they struck anyone, or if anyone noticed their falling, no one connected them with their source.

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