In Leo Tolstoy’s short story “What Men Live By,” Simon’s living conditions are not lavish. He doesn’t own a big home or ample land. In fact, he doesn’t own any kind of house or even a tiny bit of land. Simon lives in a peasant’s house, which means that he lives in a small, one-story home. A shoemaker, Simon has a source of income; but most of the money that he earns goes toward food for him, his children, and his wife, Matryona.
Simon’s poor living conditions could be illustrated by the sheepskin coat. Simon and Matryona can’t afford separate sheepskin coats; they have to share one. The coat that they share is torn and frayed. The ragged condition of the coat arguably reflects Simon and his family’s distressing living conditions.
Simon tries to better their living conditions. He intends to buy him and his wife new sheepskins that can be used for a new coat. To do so, Simon has to collect the money that other peasants owe him. As the other peasants’ living conditions are penurious, getting money out of them is no easy task. Frustrated, Simon spends the little money that he receives on vodka instead of on sheepskins.
Despite Simon’s difficult living conditions, he manages to show compassion. When he comes across the needy stranger, Simon helps him and lets him stay in his peasant’s home.