man lying inside a coffin buried underneath the earth

How Much Land Does a Man Need?

by Leo Tolstoy

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Explain how the land to be bought from the Bashkir was to be selected and measured. Accordingly, how much of the challenge did Pahom complete before sunset?

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The drive to obtain "more land" becomes a familiar refrain in Pahom's being.  This compels him to sell his initial homestead and leave the commune for a setting where he could obtain more land.  While Pahom was initially content with the move, it did not last.  Pahom reverted back to his condition of wishing for more land, seeking to satiate something that is limitless.  As his mind wandered as to where he could find more land, Pahom hears of a deal that a traveller bargained with the Bashkir family.  The deal was one in which the traveller "bought thirteen thousand acres of land all for 1,000 roubles."  The low cost and large amount of land attracted Pahom, whose greed is furthered when he finds out that the Bashkir family "are as simple as sheep,
and land can be got almost for nothing."

Upon meeting the Bashkir family, Pahom finds them to be quite agreeable.  After their discussions, the Bashkir family says through a translator:  " return for your presents they will gladly give you as much land as you want. You have only to point it out with your hand and it is yours."  After further discussions, a limiting function to the land deal is proposed:  "We do not know how to reckon it out," said the Chief. "We sell it by the day. As much as you can go round on your feet in a day is yours, and the price is one thousand roubles a day." Upon Pahom reflecting as to the implications of this, a further limiting function is added:  " If you don't return on the same day to the spot whence you started, your money is lost."  Both sides thus agree that Paholm can mark out his starting point "with a spade" and he must return to that starting point at the end of the day.  Paholm is to measure the land from the starting point and walk the length of what he wants.  What he measures out is his provided he is able to meet the conditions of the agreement.

Pahom begins his journey towards what he thinks is land acquisition and accumulation by walking Eastward and making incisions in the land with his spade to mark off territory that he believes he will own by the end of his quest. A fox hat is placed to mark the starting and ending point of Pahom's journey.  Pahom walks on for quite a while, breaking out into a sweat and needing rest.  In part due to his lack of rest the night before because of his dreams of land acquisition, fatigue begins to settle into his physical condition.  Armed with the idea of "an hour to suffer, a lifetime to live," Pahom continues on and becomes more fatigued.  As Pahom recognizes that "the sun waits for no man, and it was sinking lower and lower," he realizes that he will lose his land if he does not return before sunset.  This causes Pahom more anxious and exert greater physical effort which takes a greater physical toll on him.  As he runs, he is able to reach back to the fox hat with his hands.  Yet, the physical demand ends up killing him.  Pahom ends up accomplishing the challenge.  He returned back to the starting point before the sun fully set.  The Chief remarks that Pahom has acquired a great deal of land.  However, Pahom dies before he is able to enjoy the fruits of his labor.  The six feet of land in which he is buried is how much Pahom ended up needing in the first place.

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