In "How Much Land Does a Man Need?", what advantages of city and country life did the two sisters need?At the beginning of the story, the two sisters argue about the merits of the city and country...

In "How Much Land Does a Man Need?", what advantages of city and country life did the two sisters need?

At the beginning of the story, the two sisters argue about the merits of the city and country life. What advantages of each did they need?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The elder sister seems to require the elegance and comfort of town life. The younger sister prefers the simplicity and safety of life in the country.

The elder sister, who is married to a tradesman, extols the advantages of town life. She says that in town, the people live "comfortably," and that they and their children wear fine clothes and eat and drink wonderful things. She also brings up the many diversions available in the town, whether they be "theatre, promenades, (or other) entertainments."

The younger sister, who lives in the country, counters with the opinion that although "a peasant's life is not a fat one, it is long." She cites the absence of anxiety in their way of life, and says that though they may never grow rich, they will always have enough to eat. The younger sister believes that while people in the town may have more in the way of material possessions than those in the country, they are at greater risk of losing everything. She is satisfied with rural living because, in this way, it is "safer."

The older sister sneeringly accuses the younger sister of knowing nothing "of elegance or manners." She emphasizes the coarseness of country living, insultingly stating that no matter how hard her sister's husband may work, the family will live and die "on a dung heap." Undeterred, the younger sister retorts that though their work is "rough and coarse," they "need not bow to anyone." She argues that in the country, people are not exposed to the temptations of "cards, wine, and women" as they are in the city, and points out that if her sister's husband should succumb to one of these temptations, "all will go to ruin."

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How Much Land Does a Man Need?

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