How Much Land Does a Man Need?


Leo Tolstoy

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How Much Land Does a Man Need? Characters


The protagonist of the story, Pakhom is a peasant farmer turned landowner. Pakhom is at first depicted as a hard-working husband and family man, barely getting by according to society’s standards. Motivated by the elderread analysis of Pakhom

The Devil

The Devil makes frequent appearances in Tolstoy’s story and requires little in the form of introduction. He is eavesdropping during Pakhom’s debate over the merits of peasant life with his wife and her elderread analysis of The Devil

The Younger Sister/Pakhom’s Wife

Pakhom’s unnamed wife, and sister of the elder sister. The younger sister is proud of her simple life as a peasant, vastly preferring country living to the more complicated city life her sister… read analysis of The Younger Sister/Pakhom’s Wife

The Elder Sister/Merchant’s Wife

The wife of a merchant and Pakhom’s sister-in-law. The elder sister lives a wealthy and cosmopolitan lifestyle in an unnamed town, and she is judgmental about her younger sister’s life as a peasant… read analysis of The Elder Sister/Merchant’s Wife

The Traveling Peasant

An unnamed stranger who passes through Pakhom’s village, implied to be the Devil in disguise. Pakhom offers the traveling peasant food and lodging for the night, at which point the peasant tells Pakhom about… read analysis of The Traveling Peasant
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The Passing Merchant

An unnamed merchant implied to be the Devil in disguise. The passing merchant distracts Pakhom and prevents him from buying the bankrupt peasant’s land with his stories about “the far-off land of the Bashkirsread analysis of The Passing Merchant

The Bashkir Elder

The leader of the Bashkirs and implied to be the Devil in disguise. The Bashkirs are unable to give Pakhom any amount of land without the elder’s permission, and he is the only Bashkir who… read analysis of The Bashkir Elder

The Lady Landowner

An unnamed female landowner of a small estate just outside Pakhom’s village. A kind woman, the landowner “had always been on good terms with the peasants and had never ill-treated them,” until her newly-hired… read analysis of The Lady Landowner


A local peasant and one of only three named characters in the story. When Pakhom discovers that someone has stolen the trees from his land, he is convinced, without proof, that Semyon is the culprit… read analysis of Semyon
Minor Characters
The Bashkirs
An ethnic group indigenous to the areas bordering Northern Asia and Eastern Europe. The Bashkirs have much land to sell. The passing merchant describes them as simple people who “are as stupid as sheep” and ignorant of the Russian language. The Bashkirs prove to be friendly and accommodating.
The Old Soldier
The newly-hired manager of the local lady landowner’s estate. The old soldier repeatedly fines Pakhom and the other peasants for trespassing on the lady’s land.
The Bankrupt Peasant
An unnamed peasant who goes broke after buying several hundred acres of land. He is forced to sell his property cheaply, and Pakhom is set to purchase his land when he is distracted by the passing merchant.
The Workman
Pakhom’s hired help and his only companion on his trip to the Bashkirs’ land. The workman is present when Pakhom drops dead at the end of his walk, and he attempts to revive his employer to no avail. He uses Pakhom’s spade to dig his grave.