How Much Land Does a Man Need?

by

Leo Tolstoy

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How Much Land Does a Man Need?: Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Pakhom sets off for the land of the Bashkirs immediately, leaving behind his family and taking only a workman with him. They stop to purchase tea, vodka, and other small presents for the Bashkirs along the way. They travel for a full seven days before arriving on the Bashkirs’ settlement.
Pakhom’s greed and desire for more land has isolated him completely from his family, particularly from his wife, whose presence in the story decreases with each new land purchase, until she is left behind all together. 
Themes
The Corrupting Nature of Greed Theme Icon
Strangely, the Bashkirs don’t appear to work very much, don’t plough their fields, and allow their livestock to wander freely. They happily sit drinking kumiss, simply enjoying each other’s company. Pakhom describes them as kind, ignorant, and speaking no Russian.
The Bashkirs are portrayed as the other to Pakhom and the Russians. Pakhom considers them ignorant simply because they are different. They frequently drink kumiss, an alcoholic drink made from fermented mare’s milk, culturally known for its healing properties.
Themes
Class and Society Theme Icon
Through an interpreter, the Bashkirs warmly welcome Pakhom, providing him with a luxurious tent and plenty of kumiss. They slaughter a sheep to feed him, and Pakhom presents them with his gifts. Per their custom, the Bashkirs offer Pakhom a gift of his choosing as repayment for his kindness and presents. Wasting little time, Pakhom immediately requests land.
The Bashkirs are exceedingly kind to Pakhom, even though he hopes to gain from their perceived ignorance. Within the Bashkir culture, kumiss is often consumed during times of celebration, and Pakhom’s arrival is a cause to celebrate. Their kindness is genuine, unlike Pakhom’s. Pakhom only presents gifts to the Bashkirs hoping for land in return. 
Themes
The Corrupting Nature of Greed Theme Icon
Class and Society Theme Icon
The Bashkirs become visibly excited when Pakhom requests land. They claim that Pakhom can have as much land as he would like, all he must do is pick out a parcel. The Bashkirs begin to argue. According to custom, the Bashkirs can do nothing without the consent of the elder Bashkir; however, many of the Bashkirs claim his consent is not necessary.
The Bashkirs’ excitement over Pakhom’s request for land is suspicious, and their bizarre behavior implies a desire to give their land away. Their disagreement over the necessity of the elder Bashkir’s consent suggests that they have some inside knowledge of Pakhom’s greediness and the way it will affect his ability to purchase their land. 
Themes
The Corrupting Nature of Greed Theme Icon
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