How Much Land Does a Man Need? Post-Reading Discussion
Reading Check • How much land does Pahom acquire in his first purchase? • 40 acres • For what crime does Pahom attempt to prosecute a pesant named Simon? • Chopping down a clump of 5 lime trees • Who interrupts Pahom and a peasons just as Pahom is about to purchase 1300 acres of land? • Passing dealer • How much distance does Pahom hope to cover in his bid to acquire land from the Bashkirs? • 35 miles • What does Pahom’s servant see when he lifts Pahom from the ground on the hillock? • Blood running from Pahom’s mouth
Identifying Facts • Pahom buys his first 40 acres of land from an aristocrat. How does he raise the money? • Sells colts and bees, hires out son, borrows from his brother-in-law • After buying his first farm, why does Pahom quarrel with the neighboring peasants? • Continually trespass on land • What happens when Pahom attempts to purchase land from the Bashkirs? • Tries to get so much that he dies from exhaustion • According to Tolstoy, how much land does a man really need? How is the question in the story’s title answered? • 6 feet • Length of Pahom’s grave
Interpreting Meaning • What is the theme of the story? • How does the resolution of the story’s conflict support the theme? • Unchecked ambition brings a person neither happiness not health • Pahom’s death proves the harm of striving for material gain
Interpreting Meaning • How does the two sisters’ discussion, at the beginning, foreshadow Pahom’s end? • What other events foreshadow the ending? • “Loss and gain are brothers twain,” • References to death on the land and the Devil’s temptations • Pahom’s dream
Interpreting Meaning • Contrast Pahom’s attitude towards land with the attitude of the Bashkir chief? • What do you think accounts for the difference in their values? • The more land Pahom acquires, the more he wants • The chief is content with what he has, he’s willing to share • Nomadic/feudal backgrounds
Interpreting Meaning • What tone does Tolstory use when describing Pahom? • Cite examples from the story that best reflect the author’s attitude toward his main character. • Restrained, objective • Pahom is thrilled, Tolstoy reports the scene (section 2, last paragraph) • Pahom’s death • Bashkirs’ display of pity
Interpreting Meaning • How does this story serve as a parable that reflects Tolstoy’s beliefs about private ownership of property? • Pahom’s bids for ownership fails to bring contentement • The Bashkirs’ communal ownership is portrayed as a superior system
Applying Meaning • Discuss how the desire to have material goods and status in 19th century Russia and 20th century America are comparable.
Writing Prompt: Please answer both prompts. • Have you ever “grasped too much and ruined the whole affair” – that is, lost something because you were too ambitious? • In a paragraph, describe one such example, applying it to the message of Tolstoy’s story. • Can you think of examples of people from current events, history, or other fictional stories who have failed by being greedy or attempting too much? • In a paragraph, describe one such example, applying it to the message of Tolstoy’s story.