Literary Analysis: “How Much Land Does A Man Need?” (2011)

            Since Adam and Eve ate the fruits from the Tree of the knowledge of Good and evil, humans desired to take possession of more than they need in benefit of themselves. Human desires have brought many of us away from our original natures that God gave in the beginning. We often waste our time that has been given pursuing materialistic things. The theme of the story “How much land does a man need?” by Leo Tolstoy clearly delivers its message that greed as no boundaries and will bring you to death.

            Tolstoy tells that greed starts from coveting of other’s possessions. He starts his story with two women, arguing about whose life was better; a life with or without possessions.  As the two continued, the master of the house, Pahom, thought to himself, “If I had plenty of land, I shouldn’t fear the Devil himself!” Pahom’s thought that he would not do any sin if he had land started the whole process of greed and triggered the Devil to grant him his wishes for land. Therefore, Pahom ended up with lands to himself by the power of the Devil. When we covet other’s possessions and let greed take over our mind, we often give in to the works of Devil over our lives. This showed how greed can make us fall into Devil’s work.

As the story progresses, Tolstoy conveys his message that greed has no boundaries. When Pahom gained land, he became possessive of the land and caused disputes with his neighbors. Due to threats by the neighbors, Pahom moved to a larger land where he could possess and grow more crops for himself. Whenever there was an opportunity to gain more land, Pahom, full of greed, moved to the other land to satisfy him. However, everywhere he moved, he wasn’t satisfied with what he had. He looked for more and better land even though what he had was enough for him. Pahom’s actions reflect the characteristics of greed again. As what Tolstoy tried to tell, greed has no boundaries. What we have with us does not seem satisfactory, and it keeps us to look for more.

Tolstoy ends his story with an excellent example. On Pahom’s last trip to find land, he gained an opportunity to gain land as much as he wanted.  Pahom made a deal that he would gain the land that he made mark on if he came back to the starting point before sunset. Pahom, full with greed, walks beyond his limits. As a result, Pahom had to run to get back to the starting point. When he did, he died of exhaustion. The landowner, who saw this happen, buried Pahom. The only land he needed in the end was eight feet long, three feet wide land. The end of the story teaches us how much we actually need in life. After death, we do not carry or bring anything with us. Use the time given for better things than to satisfy your greed.

Many people in the world today believe that we need possessions and wealth to live a happy life. They often waste their time trying to gain more for themselves. As Tolstoy tries to tell us, we should not have greed on materials that are meaningless, but we should do things that are worthy. As the story said, the only thing we need in the end, is a little piece of land.


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