man lying inside a coffin buried underneath the earth

How Much Land Does a Man Need?

by Leo Tolstoy

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What is the moral of "How Much Land Does a Man Need?"

The moral of "How Much Land Does a Man Need?" is that one shouldn't be greedy. The protagonist, a greedy peasant called Pahom, becomes obsessed with the acquisition of as much land as he can get his hands on, and he ends up dying as a result of his greed.

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On one level, one can sympathize with Pahom, the hapless protagonist of Tolstoy's short story "How Much Land Does a Man Need?" As a relatively poor peasant, he lives in a part of the world where land is wealth. Not unreasonably, he wants to be wealthier and more successful than he currently is. So he sets about acquiring land, something that most people in his situation would probably do.

The problem, however, is that Pahom is never satisfied. No matter how much land he buys—and he buys a considerable amount—it's somehow never enough. Corrosive greed has entered into Pahom's soul and is eating away at it, and he becomes a figure of hatred and loathing in the village when he fines other villagers and even sues a man. Before long, Pahom has changed beyond recognition: he becomes a greedy, selfish character without any friends.

But Pahom doesn't care. He's too obsessed with buying more acres of land to pay much attention to what others think about him. So he goes on, buying more and more land, until eventually, he drops dead from exhaustion after staking out a massive plot that he believed to be an unbeatable bargain.

Poor old Pahom learns the hard way that the only land a man really needs is a tiny little plot for burying his body. The moral of this story, then, is that greed corrupts and even kills, as Pahom's experiences demonstrate.

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