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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hello! You asked about the short story by Leo Tolstoy, "How Much Land Does A Man Need?" The story starts out with an older sister visiting her younger sister in the country. The older sister is married to a tradesman in town, while the younger sister is married to a peasant in the village. Pahom is the younger sister's husband.

Both the sisters get into an argument regarding whether it is better to live in the city or in the country. The older sister argues that the city provides better entertainment, food, drink and myriad other advantages. The younger sister shoots back that although their life is hard and coarse, they are free from the anxiety of having to continually safeguard their wealth. She reasons that the city may also tempt a husband with wine, women and cards, leading to the eventual ruin of the whole family. Pahom boasts that

...Busy as we are from childhood tilling Mother Earth, we peasants have no time to let any nonsense settle in our heads. Our only trouble is that we haven't land enough. If I had plenty of land, I shouldn't fear the Devil himself!

The Devil, who has been sitting behind the oven, determines to give Pahom all the land he wants so that he can have ultimate power over Pahom's soul.

"All right," thought the Devil. "We will have a tussle. I'll give you land enough; and by means of that land I will get you into my power."

Thanks for the question!

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How Much Land Does a Man Need?

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