Is the title "How Much Land Does a Man Need?" an appropriate one for the short story by Tolstoy?Pahom's wife said: "We may live roughly, but at least we are free from anxiety. You live in better...

Is the title "How Much Land Does a Man Need?" an appropriate one for the short story by Tolstoy?

Pahom's wife said: "We may live roughly, but at least we are free from anxiety. You live in better style than we do, but though you often earn more than you need, you're very likely to lose all you have. We know the proverb, 'Loss and gain are brothers twin.'"

Expert Answers
Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The premise behind Tolstoy's story is his admiration for the peasant life, which Pahom's wife defends (in the above quote), and his belief that the peasant life is the originator of spiritual and moral integrity. In this story, Tolstoy presents an ironic twist of events in which the peasant becomes the landed estate holder. Tolstoy is using the story to examine his concept of spiritual and moral integrity. The basis of this examination is the question (which doubles as the title) "How much land does a man need?"

Pahom thought: "Our only trouble is that we haven't land enough. If I had plenty of land, I shouldn't fear the Devil himself."

The story shows Pahom's progress from poor peasant laying atop his stove to a landowner who is harassed and taking his neighbors to court to an immigrant who buys cheap land and builds a house to a greedy landowner who wants all--and more than--he can get. Of course, the Devil enters the picture to add a touch of religion-based fantasy and to help illustrate the answer to Tolstoy's question.

"All right," thought the Devil. "We will have a tussle."

In light of the above, yes, the title is appropriate to the story as it forms not only the spiritual and moral question Tolstoy wants to answer with it, but it forms the spiritual and moral conflict of the question the peasant grapples with. Since Pahom fails miserably to find the right answer because he thought land would give him spiritual strength ("I shouldn't fear the Devil himself") as well as a comfortable life, we can surmise that the answer to Tolstoy's question--appropriately and aptly used as the story's title--is that what is needed is enough land to live on but not so much land that greed sets in and breeds seeds of spiritual and moral corruption.

maheshdholiya | Student

Here, all have put their ideas in well manner. There cannot be any arguments against these. With reference to 'How much land does a man need?', I would add here general talk existed among the common people about casual matters of the people living in the society.

1. A man gets what he should deserve from the "Unknow".

2. One should do what they are destined to do.

3. Wrong and right is destiny. A man has to get troubled in what his destiny says.

4. A man gets what god bestowed him.

5. Bread should be given to those who are hungry and deserve it. (This is a line spoken by Rohit (male character in Bollywood movie 'Ashiqui 2') when he seriously quarrels with Vivek about Aarohi (female character) for her financial settlement in life.)

6. That person should not be so lucky as he seems.

Here, all these statements say that people matters the luck. Here, I think Pehom does not need a land because he does not value what he has. He thinks that much land brings value in the life. Moreover, much land is equal to status and reputation. Why devil is strong in this story? Why god is not so strong as the devil. Why villain in Pehom is stronger than the faith in god? Why cn’t he think that he should return when noon comes? He is literate but not well educated. Otherwise, the title of the story should be ‘Man is deserved to be much landed’. Addition to this, god has created everything then why devil is treading the land with man. Why he puts man’s land or god’s land at auction.

podar10 | Student

The title "How Much Land Does a Man Need?" is appropriate. It is a question that offers reflection. Pahom is greedy. He desires more and more land. He covets his neighbor's land. Then he purchases more land. Finally, he ends up at the Bashkirs' land. He can have all that he can walk around in one day. Due to his greed, Pahom tries to cover too much land. While trying to race back to the starting point, he collapses and dies.

Then the question is important. How much land does Pahom really need. Ironically, Pahom has more than enough at his burial. Since six feet of land is all that Pahom needs at his death, all of his other land will go to waste. He will not be able to enjoy it.

So the question is a good question. If Pahom had really thought about it, he had more than enough land. When all is said and done, a man only needs six feet of land in which to be buried. Pahom's greed killed him. He died because of his lust for more and more land. In the end, his burial ground covered six feet. The title is apporpriate because it makes the reader think. It causes the reader to reflect upon the nature of the question. How much Land does a man need is a title with a twist of irony. If Pahom had reflected on the question and thought about its seriousness, he might still be alive.   

Shruthi Keerthi | Student

Yes. It is an appropriate title for the story because Pahom,the farmer did not know how much land does a man need and when to stop buying land. His goal was just to buy more and more land.But at last we come to know that Pahom had to meet his death because of his unlimited greed for land.So, we can say that this story actually tells us how much do we need(not only land)and when we should stop.

Read the study guide:
How Much Land Does a Man Need?

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question