How is Pahom's land to be marked by the Bashkirs in Leo Tolstoy's "How Much Land Does a Man Need?"

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 6 of Leo Tolstoy's short story "How Much Land Does a Man Need?," Pahom is told by the Chief of the Bashkirs that he can purchase for one thousand roubles as much land as he can mark on foot in one day if he successfully returns to his exact starting point before sundown. Pahom feels concerned that the land he claims won't be properly marked and asks how that will be arranged. The Chief then explains how they will mark the starting point and how Pahom will mark out his perimeter using a spade.

More specifically, the Chief explains that they will start at any point Pahom wishes, and the Chief will remain with his tribe at that point all day long. He further explains that Pahom will need to carry a spade with him and mark whatever points of the perimeter he feels are necessary. Furthermore, Pahom will dig a hole at each turning point in the perimeter; then, he will "pile up the turf" on that spot to make the spot clearly visible. After all of Pahom's land is claimed, the Bashkirs will plow the land "from hole to hole" to clearly stake out the land.

As we see by the end of the story, Pahom successfully marks his perimeter but tries to walk more distance than he is physically capable of walking for the sake of greedily claiming more land. As a consequence, he dies by the time he returns to the starting point.

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How Much Land Does a Man Need?

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