In "How Much Land Does a Man Need?" how does Pahom's dream foreshadow or hint at the outcome of the story?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Leo Tolstoy's story "How Much Land Does One Man Need" is a parable; in this parable, Pahom has a dream after talking with the Bashkirs about acquiring land. This dream foreshadows what will happen to Pahom as it presents the characters in the dream allegorically: each of these characters has helped Pahom to succumb to temptation, and they have furthered the plan of the Devil mentioned in the exposition.

Each experience that Pahom has had with the respective characters of the dream advances his greed, underscoring the significance of the story's title. In his dream, Pahom travels backward to the origin of his greed for land: the Devil. As he dreams, Pahom envisions the Devil himself

....with hoofs and horns, sitting there and chuckling, and before him lay a man barefoot, prostrate on the ground with only trousers and a shirt on.

Then, Pahom looks and sees that the man is dead. Clearly, this dream is a last subconscious warning to Pahom to arrest his greed. Moreover, the dream symbolically summarizes the entire story.

jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When Pahom is at the Bashkirs' land and is about to try to mark off his plot, Pahom dreams that he hears someone laughing outside his tent. When he goes outside to see who it is, he finds that it is the Bashkir Chief. The chief then becomes the land dealer, then a peasant, and then the Devil himself. The Devil is sitting before a man who is prostrate, lying dead on the ground. Pahom realizes that the man is himself. 

This dream foreshadows Pahom's fate, as he works so hard trying to mark off his land that it kills him. In order to claim his land, he has to return to the spot where he started, but it is so hard for him that he dies upon reaching his starting place. The Devil had heard Pahom's initial claim that "If I had plenty of land, I shouldn't fear the Devil himself!" The Devil vows that he will give Pahom plenty of land but in so doing take Pahom into his power. This promise also comes true, so Pahom's dream in which the Devil is sitting before Pahom's dead body foreshadows the outcome of the story. 

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How Much Land Does a Man Need?

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