How Much Land Does a Man Need?


How much land does an individual require?   is short storey written by Leo Tolstoy. The story is a critical reflection on the hierarchy of nineteenth-century Russian society, in which the poor were denied and the privileged retained their money. Personal possessions, real estate, and other types of material riches were used to assess an individual’s worth and social position.

Land scarcity was a prominent concern in nineteenth-century Russia, and Tolstoy associates the Devil with the main character’s desire for land in his novel. How much land does an individual require? encourages conversation about how greed, as well as socioeconomic disparities and injustices, can contribute to our need to “have more,” even at the price of taking risks. Additionally, the storey raises issues that students can apply to their own lives, such as how we predict and justify the repercussions of our acts when motivated by greed or another incentive. Numerous these themes provide a dual purpose by being related to the development of gambling literacy and competence.

After all, recognising our own proclivities toward greed can prompt us to halt and reconsider our choices. And being aware that we are more than our riches might free us from the stress of comparing our financial worth to that of others.

Summary of How Much Land Does a Man Need?

In this story, Leo Tolstoy shows a peasant’s greed for more land, which eventually leads to his death. Pahom was a peasant from Russia. He was satisfied with his small plot of land. One day, his wife and sister-in-law were debating the advantages of a tradesman’s life and the disadvantages of a peasant’s work. Pahom listened to the debate and concluded that the peasants’ only problem was a lack of land. He reasoned that if he had enough land, he would not be scared of the Devil. The Devil overheard Pahom boasting and decided to provide him with sufficient land to enter his realm.

The landlady near their village, who owned 300 acres, was considering selling her land. The peasants learned that the adjacent innkeeper intended to purchase the estate. They were afraid he would levy a hefty fine if their livestock grazed on his property.

They intended to purchase that land as community property in order to continue grazing their cattle there. However, because they were not united, they were unable to purchase. Whoever possessed money acquired a plot of land.

Pahom’s next-door neighbour purchased 50 acres of land. He became envious of him and desired to purchase 40 acres of land. He was already carrying 100 roubles. He sold a colt, half of his honey bees, hired one of his sons as a labourer and paid him in advance, borrowed money from his brother-in-law, and purchased the land. He was content to have his own land. He cultivated and reaped a bountiful harvest, repaying all his debts. He was overjoyed at first, but soon had difficulties with his neighbour and the district court.

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He learned through one of his peasants that his entire peasant was relocating to a nearby town called Volga, where land is inexpensive and the soil is fertile. He has learned that each will receive 25 acres of freehold community land. He was well aware that he and his boys would pool their resources to acquire 125 acres of commune land. As a result, he sold all of his land and other holdings and relocated to the area, where he settled peacefully and purchased further land. He first obtained good yields but later discovered that he needed to leave the land fallow for one or two years in order to cultivate the next wheat crop. Additionally, there was a land scarcity. He had likewise been duped by a farmer. He was on the verge of purchasing his own land and was going to pay 1500 roubles for thirteen hundred acres. At the time, he learned of the Bashkirs’ land, which is far cheaper than the land he was planning to purchase. A farmer stated that he purchased thirteen thousand acres for only 1,000 roubles and was informed that the land is less than two cents per acre. He considered going there.

Finally, he arrived at the Bashkirs’ land, where he paid 1,000 roubles for as much land as he could walk around in a day. Additionally, they informed him that if he did not return to his starting place before sunset, he would forfeit the money he paid.

He was ecstatic the entire night and could not sleep. As he was preparing to sleep in the morning, he had a dream in which he saw the devil and also saw a man lying dead, which he identified as himself. He needed to begin now that the light had risen. He left his 1000 roubles on the chief’s fur hat at the foot of the mound where the Bashkirs were and began. He attempted to create the largest circle possible. However, he was so exhausted by the endeavour that he collapsed and died upon reaching the starting point. His servant buried him in a six-foot-long grave. Thus, the story provides an answer to the question, “How much does a man need?” Pahom required only six feet of land from head to heels. However, his avarice was limitless, which is why he died.

Analysis of Summary of How Much Land Does a Man Need?

Pakhom, an impoverished peasant, and his wife after the latter’s elder sister paid them a visit. The elder sister, the wife of a merchant, talks about her luxurious city life and disparages her younger sister’s poor country existence. The younger sister argues in defence of her lifestyle, stating that self-sufficiency and simplicity are the path to moral superiority. Pakhom joins in, declaring that if he had enough land, he would have nothing to fear—not even “the Devil himself.” Pakhom’s claim is overheard by the Devil, and he swears to seduce him with land. Pakhom convinces a local lady landowner to sell him thirty acres when she suddenly decides to sell. Pakhom first seemed to be pleased with his acquisition.

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It would be ideal, he believes, if not for the continual intrusions of local peasants. Pakhom repeatedly fines and prosecutes these peasants, escalating tensions to the point where his neighbours threaten to set fire to his house.

Pakhom has grown dissatisfied with his “cramped life” when a travelling peasant informs him of a village south of the Volga river where families are allotted twenty-five acres of farmland per person upon settlement. Pakhom and his family travel to the commune, where they are greeted and given land that is three times the size of the parcel they left behind. Pakhom, on the other hand, is convinced that owning freehold land, as opposed to leasing, is the only way to truly become wealthy.

Just as Pakhom is about to purchase some freehold land from a bankrupt peasant, a passing merchant diverts his attention with tales of abundant land in a distant Bashkir region. Over tea, the merchant relates how, after presenting a few gifts to the Bashkirs, he was able to secure thirteen thousand acres for a mere twenty copecks per acre.

Pakhom abandons his family and journeys to the Bashkir land. They demonstrate to be friendly yet strange people upon his arrival, offering Pakhom kumiss to drink. Pakhom presents several gifts to the Bashkirs, as instructed by the passing merchant, and they eagerly seek to repay him for his generosity. Pakhom inquires about the possibility of purchasing a portion of their land. The Bashkir elder arrives shortly thereafter and agrees to sell Pakhom as much land as he can circumnavigate in a day for a thousand roubles, on the condition that Pakhom returns to his starting point by sunset. Pakhom concurs unequivocally.

Pakhom has a strange dream that night in which the Bashkir elder, the passing merchant, and the travelling peasant all transform into the Devil, who then laughs at a dead and nearly naked figure at his feet. Pakhom comes to the realisation that the dead figure is actually him. When he awakens, however, he dismisses the dream. He focuses his gaze on the unclaimed land, grabs his spade, and begins his walk.

Despite the sun’s increasing heat, Pakhom effortlessly covers approximately six miles of land, marking his path with the spade and shedding his clothing to stay cool. Pakhom has grown accustomed to the relentless sun by midday, but he continues. After walking ten miles, he realises he must quicken his pace to ensure he returns before sunset.

Pakhom sprints back and reaches his starting point just as the sun begins to set. He then passes out from exhaustion. His employee digs Pakhom’s grave, thereby answering the story’s title question. Finally, a man requires only enough land to be buried.

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Questions and Answers

Q. How much land does a man need actually?
Ans. A man needs six feet from his head to his heels for his grave.

Q. What is Pahom’s main flaw?
And. In “How Much Land Does a Man Need?,” Pahom’s main flaw is greed. He is ungrateful for the life he has and is continuously dissatisfied with the land that he has acquired, and he carries on his quest for more and more until it eventually kills him.

Q. How does Pahoms dream predict the end of his life?

Ans. Pahom’s terrifying dream eerily foreshadows his own fate. For he will die in the land of the Bashkirs, far from his own home, as a direct consequence of his insatiable greed for land.

Q. What happens when Pahom’s cows go on his neighbours land?
Ans. When Pahom buys more land, essentially nothing changes. He still wants more land and continues looking for ways to have more and more of it. His greed becomes the central focus of his life, and more land seems to be all he can think about.

Q. Who is the tragic figure in the story how much land does a man need?
Ans. Pahom is the tragic figure in the story. He is a victim of his own desires. While the Devil manipulates Pahom by playing on those desires, he never forces Pahom to do anything. If Pahom had been in better control of his greed, he would not have walked so far across the Bashkirs’ land.

Q. What does the Devil decide to do after poems boosting in How Much Land Does a Man Need?
Ans. The Devil overhears Pahom and takes this statement as a challenge: The devil, overhearing this boast, decides to give Pahom his wish, seducing him with the extra land that Pahom thinks will give him security. The Devil causes Pahom to lust for more and more land.

Q.How much land does Pahom get from the Bashkirs with his price?
Ans. After travelling over 300 miles, they finally reached the land of the Bashkirs. The Bashkirs explained the cost of land, “Our price is always the same, one thousand rubles a day.” Pahom did not understand. The chief said that for 1,000 rubles Pahom could buy as much land as he could walk around in one day.

Q. What is being symbolized by Pahom in the story?
Ans. Pakhom’s spade symbolizes his greed in “How Much Land Does a Man Need?” A common tool, the elder Bashkir insists that Pakhom take the spade to mark his progress throughout his walk of the Bashkirs’ land—essential mapping out the extent of his greed. Pakhom’s greed is what has buried him.

Q. How does Pahom change when he became a landowner?
Ans. After Pahom becomes a landowner, he slowly turns against his neighbours. He starts complaining when they or their livestock trespass on his property.

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