How does Pahom's dream foreshadow the outcome of Leo Tolstoy's "How Much Land Does a Man Need"? 

How does Pahom's dream foreshadow the outcome of "How Much Land Does a Man Need?" by Leo Tolstoy?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 7 of Leo Tolstoy's "How Much Land Does a Man Need?" Pahom dreams of being awakened to find a man laughing outside of his tent. When he approaches the man, the man transforms from the Bashkir Chief, to the dealer, to the peasant from the Volga, to the Devil. All of these transformations show both Pahom and the reader that the Devil has really been behind all of the people Pahom has dealt with in his quest to purchase more and more land. More importantly, after the Devil appears in his dream, Pahom also sees a dead man lying beside the Devil. Upon closer examination, Pahom sees the dead man is actually himself. Pahom's vision of himself dead foreshadows his upcoming demise caused by his greed.

The narrator relays that, in the dream, Pahom saw the dead man lying "barefoot, prostate on the ground, with only trousers and a shirt on." This is exactly what Pahom looks like when he dies by the end of the story. Pahom has been promised as much land as he can mark out on foot before sundown. Pahom is a middle-aged man and has overestimated how much walking he can physically endure. The more he walks to claim his land, the hotter it gets and the harder walking becomes. To set out comfortably, he "[takes] off his outer coat," but as the sun grows hotter, he finds he must also remove his "sleeveless under coat," leaving him dressed in only his shirt and trousers, just like the man in his dream. Yet, he doesn't stop there. Because the weight of his boots are making it harder to walk, he decides to remove his boots and walk in his bare feet. Towards the end of the chapter, he realizes he has walked longer than he can physically endure and will not make it back in time before the sun sets. In an effort to race the setting sun, he throws away his flask, cap, coat, and boots, leaving himself with nothing but his trousers, shirt, and spade. Before he reaches his destination, he drops dead, barefoot and wearing only a shirt and trousers, just like the man in his dream.

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How Much Land Does a Man Need?

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