man lying inside a coffin buried underneath the earth

How Much Land Does a Man Need?

by Leo Tolstoy

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From which point of view is "How Much Land Does a Man Need?" written?

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Tolstoy's "How Much Land Does a Man Need?" is a short story that is told in a combination of third-person limited and third-person omniscient points of view. Although Tolstoy spends the majority of the story following only the central character, Pahom, there is also evidence of the narrator's omniscient knowledge. The first and most important evidence of omniscience is actually found in the first section of the story. Pahom's wife and her sister are having an argument about whether the city or the country is a better place to live. Meanwhile, Pahom is sitting near the stove listening in to their conversation. After they finish their discussion, Pahom thinks to himself: "If I had plenty of land, I shouldn't fear the Devil himself." However, just after Pahom's claim, the reader learns that the Devil is also sitting there listening in on the conversation. The Devil is pleased to hear Pahom's boast and sets a dramatically ironic challenge for Pahom. He thinks to himself: "I'll give you land enough; and by means of that land I will get you into my power." These insights into both characters' thought processes is what allows for the central conflict of the story to take place. If the reader was not aware of one or both of these characters' thought patterns, he or she would not understand the Devil's success at the end as deeply.

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The story is written in the third-person omniscient point of view, giving us knowledge of what the characters think and feel, as well as what they say and do. The omniscient view, in contrast to the third-person limited point of view, takes us inside the characters, revealing more than one could hear or observe at the scene. For example, in Part 7 of the story, we are told what Pahom dreams. Also, in Part 2 of the story, we are told what the peasants thought.

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