Expert Answers
davmor1973 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Pahom comes across in many respects as quite a greedy, grasping individual. He becomes obsessed by the idea of owning land, seeing it as a way of solving all his problems. At the same time, we have to recognize the importance of landownership in Russia in those days, when the vast majority of the population consisted of peasants. The ownership of land was one of the few means by which people from relatively humble origins could get on in life, so perhaps we shouldn't be too hasty in condemning Pahom for wanting to improve his lot.

That said, Pahom shows himself to be incredibly foolish and lacking in sound judgement. He's a very hard-working man, but also very greedy. No matter how much land he accumulates it's never enough. And the more land he acquires, the more possessive he becomes of that land. This leads him to behave appallingly toward his neighbors, so much so that there's talk of burning down his house. His cynicism towards other people is also reflected in the way he deals with the Bashkirs. He takes their naïveté in the ways of the world as a license to cheat them out of valuable land, which leads to his own eventual demise.

But as a previous contributor has noted, Pahom is not so much a character as an allegory. And Tolstoy conveys a sense that perhaps he's not ultimately responsible for his actions; that his negative character traits represent in microcosm the greed and self-centeredness that's such an integral part of human nature.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Because this tale is a parable or an allegory, the character of Pakhom is not fully developed into a round character. Rather the details we are given serve to establish him as a type instead of an intensely interesting pscyhological phenomenon.

Pahom is shown from the first to be a poor peasant, who desires more land to have an easier life. He resents being treated badly by other landowners and is clearly preoccupied with providing for his family. However, envy begins to enter him when he hears of other peasants buying their own land, which leads to his own purchase of land. Having bought his own land, Pahom now finds that he is treating other peasants the same way that he was treated by landowners - the ownership of land has resulted in a change of his character. This is something that continues throughout the tale, until his attitude to land is juxtaposed harshly with that of the Bashkir chief: the more land Pakhom receives, the less he will share, wheras the Bashkirs treat land as something to be shared and something that is held in common. Throughout the story, however, Pakhom's desire to own more and more land grows with intensity until it finally results in his own death, and the grimly ironic possession of 6 feet of land - all that is needed to bury him.

Read the study guide:
How Much Land Does a Man Need?

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question