The story is titled ‘how much land does a man need?” because the writer wanted to point out the consequences of greed of human being. the question put on the title is answered ironically by writer itself. what a man really needs is land 6 feet above head to be buried in.
The story is about satisfaction which brings happiness, and greed for more things which brings unhappiness, loss of peace of mind and even death. An elder sister from the city visits a younger sister, the wife of a farmer in the village. she boasts about city life- good food, clothes, entertainments etc. the younger sister replies that though life may be rough in the village, she and her husband are free and happy without the temptation of city life. the devil is present listening to the conversation and plans to tempt Pahom, the farmer and get him into his power. sometimes later the land lady of the village decides to sell her estate. Pahom buys 40 Acres of her land and thinks that now he will be happy. but land doesn’t give him happiness, he becomes very possessive of his land, he has many arguments with his neighbors and when they cut down 5 of his trees, his peace is mind is lost. deciding to teach them a lesson, he fires some of the workers but in return he gets threats to burn his building.
So, when he hears of another prosperous community, he shifts there. but he is dissatisfied living in a communal land. he thinks of buying his own property. Finally, he introduces to the basskirs who are simple minded people with huge amount of land. their offer is unusual. the sell land by the day. for sum of 1000 Rouples, pahom can walk around as large area of land as he can but has to reach starting point till sunset. if he couldn’t return to the starting point he would lose his land and money .
Pahom’s greed is aroused, for he believed that he can cover a great distance. they start early in the morning marking the land with his feet. he starts out let and when he sees setting sun, he realizes that he is so far from the starting point and runs back as fast as he can. he finally arrives at the starting point exhausted and drops down dead. his servant buries him in an ordinary grave only 6 feet deep. thus ironically answering the posed question in the title.
“6 feet from his head to his heels was all he needed.”