HOW MUCH LAND DOES MAN NEED by Leo Tolstoy - Memories we Lost and Other Stories Study Guide

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The Author

When Tolstoy died at the age of 82 from pheumonia, he may have been the most famous man in the world. He was the leading Russian novelist in the world.

Leo Tolstoy was born in 1828 the wealthy aristocratic parents. He was orphaned at the age of 9 and thus grew up under the care of aunts and uncles.

He once served in the Russian army during the Crimean war lt is the suffering that he witnessed during the war that heeped to bring out his serious, morally questioning nature.

Tolstoy greatest works are war and peace and Anna karennia regarded as the finest novels ever written.

Although Tolstoy was a pacifist, a Christian and an aristocrat his books were never banned. His rural grave is a major Russian tourist attraction and his house in Moscow is now Tolstoy museum.

The Title.

The title is a question Pahom tries to get as much land as he could, However, at the end he dies trying to get this land and is buried in a grave six feet by three. The end of the story answer the question, How much land does a man need, that six feet is all we require because when we die we do not carry anything with us.

The Setting.

The setting is in Russian countryside. Events rotate mainly around where Pahom met his death in the Bahkir's land.

The Plot.

How much land does a man need? Is one of the best moral tales that Tolstoy wrote.

Written in 1886 the story tells about Paho who is corrupted by materialism and greed and eventually destroyed by greed.

The Protagonist Pahom is a peasant. At the beginning we are told he owns '1 23 acres of land pasture'(page ) and a big house animals and a family (of five) but he is not contented.

One day a passing dealer informs Pam that he had bought 1 300 acres of land at 1000 roubles and even goes further to show Pahom the title deed.

The dealer creates the impression at the seller (the Bashkirs) are simple minded who own large tracks of land.

Pahom makes up his mind that he was going to buy land from the Bashkirs. He buys presents for them and with a servant makes a seven days journey to the land of the Bashkirs to take as much land for a low price. He gives the Bashkirs the presents he had bought for them. The chief informs him that as a token of appreciation, he would be rewarded with whatever he wanted. Pahom chooses land.

Their offer is very unusual; for a sum of 1000 roubles, Pahom can walk around as large area as he wants, starting at daybreak, marking his route with a spade along the way. If he reaches his starting point by sunset that day, the entire area of land his route encloses would be his, but if he does not reach his starting point he would lose money and receive no land.

Pahom is happy with the arrangement and decides he will start the following morning. He is so excited by the idea of owning large tracks of land that he cannot even sleep. He 'only dozed off just before dawn' pg 22.Before sunrise he is taken to the hillock and shown the spot he will start at sunrise.

Pahom takes a spade to mark the land and as soon as the sun appears he starts walking towards the meadow. He walks fast and at certain point has to take off his coat and shoes because of the heat and so that he can walk faster. He walks straight and far until the hillock and the people are no longer visible. He stops to takes water and lunch. After the meal he starts walking but is soon very exhausted and sleepy because its is too hot.

When he thought he had walked enough and should start to go boo he is tempted by a damp hollow "It would be a pity to leave those out... Flax would do well there". Greed makes him not to turn when would have been very necessary to do so.

By the time he makes up his mind to go back to the hillock, the sun is overhead and he is exhausted. By this time he is very tired, the temperatures are very high, his feet are cut and bruised and the legs are failing him. He regrets having walked too far.

Because of serious pain and exhaustion, he throws away everything else he was carrying, coat shoes, flask and his cap. Fear of not achieving his goals makes him to start running, this despite the heat, dehydration and pain.

At one point he is aware that strain will kill him "Though afraid of death, he could not stop" He ran on and on. This is the climax of the story when he decides to keep going even though he is dying. He dies of exhaustion once he reaches the top of the hill. The Bashkirs exclaims "He has gained much land "But he is dead. The servant quickly buries Pahom using his own spade that he used to mark the land.

Only six feet of land is needed to bury him. Six feet of land is how much land a man needs because every man dies in the end.



The only fully developed character in the story How much land does a man need is Pahom. The author intends his readers to focus entirely on the person of Pahom as he seeks his fortune.

He is a peasant who keeps frying to gain more land and never seems to have enough.

He is a dynamic character who is well developed even though negatively. At first he is content with his life but then he becomes greedy and ambitious in his persuit of wealth (new land)

Pahom is an industrious and a hardworking person. He owns 123 acres of land on which he farms and 'the number of cattie kept increasing' pg 21. It is this trait that makes him go to the Bashkirs search of new lands But Pahom is also greedy and materialistic we are told that 'he wanted wider and more fertile lands and had an desire to it.

He kept on thinking of one thing 'How can I have more land. Because of greed and materialism he goes out the Bashkirs land in search of cheap land. At the Bashkirs he becomes carried away by his greed and covers a distance that is too much for him and is responsible for his own demise. Pahom is rustling to return to the hillock before sunset, dying in the process. He knows that he is dying and considers stopping but he doesn't because of greed. Pahom potrays the nature of greed in humans.

Pahom is also a very generous person this is seen when he buys presents for the Bashkirs and are happy with him ln fact as a token of appreciation of the generousity the Bashkir's chief offers to give him any reward he chooses.

He is also a determined person because when he makes up his mind to get the Bashkir's land he makes a seven day journey to their land, he even buys presents for the Bashkir's.

The Chief of the Bashkir's.

He is a static character who does not change or develop.

He is appreciative and thankful of the presents given to him by Pahom and because of this he make; a good deal with Pahom about how much land he can get from their tribe.

For accommodating Pahom and offering him land he is very hospitable and generous.

The dealer

Not much is revealed about the dealer but it is apparent that he is sincere and honest. He even shows Pahom his tiltle deed to proof his point.



Pahom the main character reflects the characteristic of greed. Tolstoy through Pahom want to tell us that greed does not pay and might lead to self destruction.

Pahom the main character has enough of what one requires in life ln fact he is rich, he owns 123 acres of land, a family and land but is not contented. He goes out in the Bashkir's land to look for more at a very low price.

The author wants to show that what we have with us does not set, -satisfactory, and it keeps us to look for more. Pahom become; carried away with his ambition and greed and loses contentment, even though he already has land to make him happy. On his trip to the Bashkir's to find land, he has an opportunity to gain land as much as he wanted. After paying 1000 roubles, he told to make a mark and walk as much but be back by sunset and all the land he would have covered, would be his provided he was back by sunset. But Pahom full with greed walks beyond his limit. On reaching he is running short of time he starts running so as to get back to the starting point.

Unfortunately he dies of exhaustion just when he was about to reach the starting point. Greed leads to self destruction. He is buried by his servant and at the end the only land he requires is 6 by 3 feet big enough for his grave. The end of the story teaches us that greed does not pay and how much we actually need in life. After death we do not carry anything with us.




Stylistic Devices

Use of parables.

Tolstoy story is a parable.

Like the parables of Jesus a parable is a simple tale that has moral lessons. Like Pahom many people in the world today believe that we need material things and wealth in order to be happy. Such people often waste their time to gain more for themselves. The author tries to tell us that we should not have greed on materials that are meaningless but do things that are worthy. The story concludes with a moral lesson that the only thing need in the end, is a little piece of land. Thus we should learn to be content with what we have having more doesn't always make you happier and greed can consume and destroy your life. At the end Pahom gets a fitting end.

Use of irony

When Pahom dies and is buried by his servant the author describes his grave as being six feet as all the land he needed. Six feet is unexpected answer to the title of the story. 

Use of Dialogue.

There is a dialogue between Pahom and the dealer. 

"Is it true there is a place where land sells such cheap there must

"It could not be look at this title deed" pg 21

The dialogue brings out the honesty of the dealer and the inquinsitive and greedy nature of Pahom.

There is also the dialogue between the chief of the Bashkir's and Pahom. The dialogue brings out the greed of Pahom and the Chiefs genoristy.

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