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How Much Land Does a Man Need?

by Leo Tolstoy

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In "How Much Land Does a Man Need?", why can't Pahom sleep before claiming the Bashkirs' land?

Quick answer:

In "How Much Land Does a Man Need?" Pahom is unable to sleep the night before he claims the Bashkirs' land because he keeps thinking about how much land he will get and what he will do with it.

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Pahom is greedy for land, so is excited when the Bashkir chief offers to sell him as much land as he can walk around in a day for one thousand rubles. The only catch is that Pahom must arrive at the same spot where he started by the end of the day or forfeit the money.

Pahom is given a feather bed to sleep on by the Bashkirs, but nevertheless can't sleep because he keeps thinking excitedly about all the land he will get the next day. He decides he can walk a 35 mile circumference in day. He makes plans to keep the best of the land he gets, then sell or lease the rest. Instead of sleeping he imagines having to hire more laborers and buy more oxen. Then, when he finally dozes off near dawn, he has a dream—or what he thinks is a dream. In it, he sees the devil laughing at him, and himself as a dead man. But despite this omen, he does not scale back his plans for his walk.

Pahom staying up all night planning what he was going to do with his land was for nothing. He fails to make it all around the 35 miles. He dies and is buried: the six feet of his grave is all he needed.

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