How Much Land Does a Man Need?

by

Leo Tolstoy

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How Much Land Does a Man Need?: Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Pakhom and the Bashkirs gather on small hill and survey the land. Beautiful farmland stretches as far as the eye can see, and the elder Bashkir confirms that Pakhom may have as much of it as he likes. The elder marks the starting point with his fox-fur cap, and Pakhom places one thousand roubles on the cap. He removes his outer coat, packs a small sack of bread, and secures a flask to his belt. He makes sure to grab the spade before setting off in the direction of the rising sun.
 As Pakhom considers where to begin his walk, he removes his outer clothing in preparation. He begins to physically resemble the dead Pakhom in his dream (who was barefoot and wore only a hat and trousers), yet he still does not heed the warning. Again, attention is drawn to the spade, the tool that Pakhom will mark his land with.
Themes
The Corrupting Nature of Greed Theme Icon
Death and Pride Theme Icon
Pakhom walks a steady pace and digs his first hole after three quarters of a mile. He continues, digging more and more holes to mark his land. After several miles, he removes his overcoat under the heat of the sun. It is now past breakfast, and Pakhom removes his shoes to keep cool.
With each new hole Pakhom digs to denote his property, his greed carries him further away from the fur cap and his starting point, increasing his exhaustion. As he removes his shoes, he even more closely resembles his dream, though he doesn’t internalize this.
Themes
The Corrupting Nature of Greed Theme Icon
God, the Devil, and Free Will Theme Icon
Pakhom makes a sharp left turn and continues walking in a new direction. He stops for water and bread and becomes tired, wanting to sleep. Eager to get as much land as he possibly can, though, Pakhom pushes on and refuses to rest.
Pakhom’s body is failing, yet his greed drives him on. He could simply stop and rest (and settle for a little less land), he refuses. Once again, his greed is overpowering and threatens his own well-being.
Themes
The Corrupting Nature of Greed Theme Icon
Pakhom continues to walk, and just as he is about to turn left again to begin making his way back to his starting point, he spots a lush hollow perfect for growing flax. He continues through the hollow, making his way with the spade.
Pakhom has grown only wheat and corn in the past, yet he suddenly desires flax. He must go out of his way to navigate the hollow, increasing the unlikelihood of him not returning by sundown. He continues to dig with the spade, each hole adding to his exhaustion and driving him further from his starting point—and, unbeknownst to him, closer to death.
Themes
The Corrupting Nature of Greed Theme Icon
Death and Pride Theme Icon
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By now, Pakhom has walked over ten miles and marked two of the three sides of his property. He must walk quickly down the third side, making it considerably shorter and lopsided to walk the ten miles back to the Bashkirs and the elder Bashkir’s fox-fur cap. 
Pakhom has been too greedy. He has attempted to take too much, and his chances of returning by sundown are growing slim. The parcel of land he’s claimed is now lopsided and thin, suggesting that he could have actually claimed more land had he been more reasonable and moderate.
Themes
The Corrupting Nature of Greed Theme Icon
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