man lying inside a coffin buried underneath the earth

How Much Land Does a Man Need?

by Leo Tolstoy
Start Free Trial

What does Pahom use to mark the perimeter of the land in "How Much Land Does a Man Need?"

In “How Much Land Does a Man Need?” by Leo Tolstoy, Pahom marks the perimeter of the land by digging holes and piling up turf to show its boundaries.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In Leo Tolstoy's story “How Much Land Does a Man Need?” Pahom thinks that he will finally have all the fertile land he could possible want. He has heard that the Bashkirs will sell land for nearly nothing, and he discovers that this is indeed true.

The Chief of the Bashkirs offers to sell Pahom as much land as he can walk around in a day for only one thousand roubles. Pahom is both surprised and thrilled, and the next morning he starts out at sunrise, determined to get as much land as he possibly can.

Pahom walks about a thousand yards and then stops to mark his place. He digs a hole and piles up pieces of turf on top of each other so he can see exactly where the boundaries of his land will be. Then he goes on a little faster and soon digs another hole. After a while, as the sun is getting hot, Pahom decides that he will turn the corner and begin heading in the next direction. He digs another large hole and piles up pieces of turf to mark it.

As the day goes on, Pahom realizes that he has marked out a piece of land that might just be too large, and he starts to worry that he will not make it back to the Bashkirs by sunset. He has to hurry for the last bit. Pahom makes it back to his starting place just in time, but he drops to the ground and dies, making the whole effort futile, for the only land Pahom needs in the end is six feet to make his grave.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team