man's feet dangling above a window outside a building

Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket

by Jack Finney

Start Free Trial

What lessons did Tom learn in "Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Tom begins the story by refusing to go to the movies with his wife because he has to stay at home and work. When she says that he works too hard, he replies that she won't be complaining when he is at the top of his profession and the money is rolling in.

The project on which Tom has been working so hard, and which stops him from spending time with his wife, is mapped out on a piece of paper which blows out of the window when she has gone. It is stuck on the ledge, and he believes he can easily retrieve it. When he does so, however, he too gets stuck and believes he is about to die.

Tom eventually manages to re-enter the room by smashing the window. He fetches his hat and coat so that he can go to the movie theater to find his wife. As he does so, the paper blows out of the shattered window, and Tom bursts out laughing.

Tom's near-death experience teaches him to rearrange his priorities. The end of the story, when he goes to find his wife at the movies and does not care about the lost paper, is the exact reverse of the beginning. Having come close to dying for the paper, Tom realizes how trivial it really is and understands that he has been wasting his life and neglecting his marriage.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial