Why does Tolstoy include the devil in the story?
In the beginning, two sisters are arguing over who has the better life. In this debate or argument, the Devil is introduced and his role as a tempter is implied:
The elder sister suggests that city life boasts better clothes, good things to eat and drink, and various entertainments, such as the theater. The younger sister replies that though peasant life may be rough, she and her husband are free, will always have enough to eat, and are not tempted by the devil to indulge in such worldly pursuits.
In the story "How much Land Does a Man Need?" Leo Tolstoy includes the Devil as a character. The Devil represents the evil in the story. The evil is the greed that consumes Pahom. In fact, in the beginning of the story, Pahom states that if he had enough land, he would not fear the Devil himself:
“If I had plenty of land, I shouldn’t fear the Devil himself!”
The Devil overhears Pahom and takes this statement as a challenge:
The devil, overhearing this boast, decides to give Pahom his wish, seducing him with the extra land that Pahom thinks will give him security.
The Devil causes Pahom to lust for more and more land. Pahom cannot be satisfied until he buys more and more land.
From the beginning, the devil is characterized as a tempter. The reader realizes the character of the Devil is going to tempt Pahom to desire more and more land:
Tolstoy's Pahom is thus a man discontented with his lot in life who fails to seek his contentment from the proper source. His boast that with enough land he would not fear the devil himself is actually a rejection of God as his protector and benefactor. However, unlike Faust, who openly bargains with an agent of the devil, Pahom is a victim of his own greed, which obscures his judgment; so obsessed is he with more land, he is unable to recognize the hand of the devil behind his opportunities.
In fact, at the Bashkirs' land, Pahom becomes so tempted until he cannot stop himself when he is walking around all the land he can in one day. Pahom becomes greedy and tries to cover too much area in one day. Even though Pahom was warned in a dream when he saw the Devil laughing, Pahom did not pay attention to the dream. He died trying to cover more land in one day than a man can cover. The Devil won Pahom's life. Pahom needs only six feet of land which is enough to be buried in.