How Much Land Does a Man Need
A brief summary of Tolstoy’s “How Much Land Does a Man Need?”
The main character is a man named Pahom.
At the beginning of the story, he is a peasant farmer, a man of humble means who lives a decent life.
But, after his sister-in-law has bragged that city folk have a much better life than country peasants, Pahom bemoans the fact that he does not own land.
He states that “if I had plenty of land, I shouldn’t fear the Devil himself!”
Little does he know that the Devil is sitting close by and listening.
The Devil says: “All right! We shall see about that I’ll give you land enough; and by means of that land I will get you into my power.”
Shortly thereafter, Pahom manages to buy some land from a lady in his village.
He works hard, makes a profit and is able to pay off his debts and live a more comfortable life.
But he is not satisfied and, after a peasant told him about the opportunity to own more land, he moves to a larger area of land.
Pahom grows more crops and amasses a small fortune, but it is still not content.
Now another character tells him of another opportunity to own more land.
Pahom hears (from a tradesman) about the Bashkirs, a simple people who own a huge amount of land deep in Central Asia.
After a long trek, Pahom meets the Bashkirs on the vast steppe.
He is prepared to negotiate a price for as much land as possible, but before he can do so, the Bashkirs make him a very unusual offer, the same one that they make to anyone who wishes to buy land from them.
For one thousand rubles (a large sum in those days), Pahom can buy as much land as he can walk around in one day.
He has to start at daybreak and mark his route with a shovel at key points along the way.