The main character of “How Much Land Does A man Need?” is a clear example of an insatiable desire for possessions and wealth which at the end destroys the person.
Pahom was living a life “free from anxiety” as his wife said and “without time to let any nonsense settle in his head” according to Pahom’s words. As the story develops it reveals Pahom’s real problem was inside him because he was never content or please with the land and the possessions he had.
At the beginning of the story, Pahom was a peasant without land of his own, working daily to support his family and thinking “Our only trouble is that we haven’t land enough. If I had plenty of land, I shouldn’t fear the devil himself”; when in reality the avarice within Pahom lied dormant and he was not aware that his desire to obtain “plenty of land” will inevitably awaken the monster inside him that could never be satisfied.
The first time Pahom had a land of his own was a farm of forty acres. “So he became a landowner, plowing and sowing his own land, making hay on his own land, cutting his own trees, and feeding the cattle of his own pasture. When he went out to plough the fields, or to look at his growing corn, or at his grass meadows, his heart would fill with joy”. This farm seemed to him unlike any other land, fulfilling his dreams until he heard the story of a better place where he will be able to have more land of his own. At this moment the greed in him began to blind Pahom to the simplicity of his life and to be grateful and fulfilled for what he had.
The second farm he acquired had 125 acres and Pahom, “had three times as much as at his former home, and the land was good corn land. He was ten times better off than he had been. He had plenty of arable land and pasturage, and could keep as many head of cattle as he liked.”
Obviously greed does not have limits and it is a part of our human nature some posses a greater level of greed than others but nevertheless greed holds no boundaries and the word plenty has no meaning at all.
I wonder what Pahom’s wife was thinking now because in the conversation she has with her sisters, she was more concerned with the temptations of the surrounding towns but did not consider the avarice lying inside her husband that once, fed leads to ruin. Pahom had it all but Pahom was not happy, he was not content, he was not satisfied with the land he had.
His greed lead him in to a path of destruction that is best described by the dream he had the night before his death. “He thought he was lying in that same tent, and heard somebody chuckling outside. He wondered who it could be, and rose and went out, and he saw the the Bashkir Chief sitting in front of the tent holding his side and rolling about with laughter. Going nearer to the Chief, Pahom asked: “What are you laughing at?” But he saw that it was no longer the Chief, but the dealer who had recently stopped at his house and had told him about the land.
Just as Pahom was going to ask, “Have you been here long?” he saw that it was not the dealer, but the peasant who had come up from the Volga, long ago, to Pahom’s old home. Then he saw that it was not the peasant either, but the Devil himself with hoofs and horns, sitting there and chuckling, and before him lay a man barefoot, prostrate on the ground, with only trousers and a shirt on. And Pahom dreamed that he looked more attentively to see what sort of a man it was lying there, and he saw that the man was dead, and that it was himself! He awoke horror struck.”
Pahom never had enough land, he always needed more to feed the insatiable greed that controlled his life. The following excerpt from the poem Who Am I? written by Dietrich Bonheoffer describes better the condition of Pahom’s struggle: “Who Am I? This or the other?
Am I one person today and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,
And before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still like a beaten army?
Fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?
Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine
Whoever I am, Thou knowest, O God, I am Thine.”
Time after time Pahom was not able to enjoy the fruit of his hard work as a result of the avarice consuming him. As the proverb says: ” A greedy man hasten after wealth and does not know that poverty will come upon him” Proverbs 28:22
Pahom died seeking more and more land of his own and at the end “his servant picked up the spade and dug a grave long enough for Pahom to lie in, and buried him in it. Six feet from his head to his heels was all he needed”.