What is the significance of the title 'How Much Land Does A Man Require?'

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Tolstoy in his later years became an admirer of the American philosopher/economist Henry George and an advocate of George's program for social reform explained in his bookProgress and Poverty. Briefly, George believed that no one should be entitled to own any part of the earth, since no one created it and since those who come first can monopolize all the land and force people born later to pay them to use the land. Eventually the entire earth could be monopolized by men who did not use it. George believed that the government should own all the land and rent it out at the fair market rental value. The government should derive all its revenue from this rent and not charge any taxes of any kind.

Tolstoy's story "How Much Land Does a Man Need?" illustrates how some men will try to acquire much more land than they can use, because they can either charge others to use that land or force others to work the land for them as sharecroppers or serfs. The story shows the influence of thinkers like Henry George, Herbert Spencer, the British philosopher, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the French philosopher, among others.

The Devil is included in the story because Tolstoy considered the existing system of land ownership wicked and devilish, the cause of much of the human suffering that existed in his native land and elsewhere in the world, including the American Deep South where slavery still flourished.

lsumner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.   

The title signifies some thing very simple........that a man should never be greedy ans it also signifies the actual amount of land a man needs.


This title reflects the grrdy nature of man that anything cannot satisfy the man's appetite.

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How Much Land Does a Man Need?

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