man's feet dangling above a window outside a building

Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket

by Jack Finney

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Who are the main characters in "Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket"?

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The main characters in “Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket” are Tom Benecke, his wife, Clare, and arguably, the yellow sheet of paper that is the focus of Tom's life.

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Tom Benecke is the main character of Jack Finney's story “Contents of the Dead Man's Pocket.” Tom is something of a workaholic. He is in the grocery marketing business, and he has come up with a new display method that could greatly increase sales. He has been working on this project for a long time and has spend many hours filling a yellow sheet of paper with all his data and calculations. Now, however, that paper has flown directly out the window, and Tom must risk his life in order to save it. He does retrieve the paper but just barely, and when he gets off the ledge and back inside, he is a changed man. His priorities have completely turned around, and he lays his work aside. When the paper flies out the window yet again, Tom just lets it go. It is not worth his life.

Another main character in this story is Tom's wife, Clare. Clare is very patient with her husband and his focus on work. She doesn't get angry or scold him. She merely cheerfully goes to the movies by herself, allowing Tom to do his work. She knows the project is extremely important to him, so she puts his concerns before her own.

We might even argue that the yellow sheet of paper is a character of sorts in its own right. It is certainly at the center of Tom's attention, and it actually seems to do its best to foil his attempts to retrieve it from the ledge. Of course, the paper isn't really alive, but Tom treats it almost as if it was. He is so focused on that one piece of paper that he is willing to risk his life for it.

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