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A Six Foot Failure

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Six Foot Failure

A man cannot govern a nation if he cannot govern a city; he cannot govern a city if he cannot govern a family; he cannot govern a family unless he can govern himself; and he cannot govern himself unless his passions are subject to reason ~ Hugo Grotius

Three centuries before Leo Tolstoy's time, philosopher and Christian apologist Hugo Grotis suggested that a man could not be successful unless he could balance his own emotions with reason. The universal theme in Tolstoy's parable, How Much Land Does a Man Need? is relevant in the 21st century and his third person omniscient point of view compels the reader to judge Tolstoy's character, Pahom. Tolstoy's juxtaposition of Pahom's thoughts and behaviors invokes the theme, a man who cannot govern his emotions with logic is doomed to failure. In the analysis of peasant-turned-land -owner, Pahom, I consider Paholm a failure.

Since the origin of civilized society, classism has existed across the globe regardless of its form of government. Whether a country is ruled through a democracy, theocracy or kingdom, there is a division between the "haves" and the "have-nots." Land ownership has always indicated the disparity between the highest and lowest classes.Traditionally, the key to success had been for land owners to use this resource for the greatest benefit of its owner. Successful land acquisition and use required strong and rational decision making. In How Much Land Does a Man Need?, Pahom realizes the rewards of owning land, but he is clearly tempted to better his life by buying even more land. "'Busy as we are from childhood tilling mother earth, we peasants have no time to let any nonsense settle in our heads. Our only trouble is that we haven't land enough. If I had plenty of land, I shouldn't fear the Devil himself!'"

At first, the reader views Pahom as a noble character since Western society values ambition and drive. Pahom is compelled to better his lot in life so that he is not perceived as a peasant. He'd rather live as his well-off sister-in-law who bragged about, "...how comfortably they lived there, how well they dressed, what fine clothes her children wore, what good things they ate and drank, and how she went to the theater, promenades, and entertainments." Here Pahom is seduced by the benefits and social status land owners enjoy, but the very fact that he is compelled to "succeed" by securing more and more land indicates that he is out of control. He is acting through jealousy and greed rather than logic. Pahom's attempts to match the outward show of his sister-in-law's success indicates that he is reacting to an emotional stimulus rather than acting to build his own measurable status. Chasing the illusion of success, he sells his valuables to secure forty acres from his neighbor. Later, feeling confined by his neighbors and their cattle, Pahom is still unsatisfied with the amount of land that he's obtained so he sells his homestead to move to a larger village with the promise of securing even more land.

Now Pahom wants to make much more money from the land in order to pay his taxes. As a well-off land owner, he is able to rent the land to peasants in order to make a hefty profit. Still, Pahom is unsatisfied. The emotions of avarice and vanity (over-concern with social class) overtake him; Pahom longs for more land, and at a cheaper cost. With inadequate concern for the method he is to obtain more land, Pahom is lured into a land deal with the "simple" Bashkirs whom he considers beneath him. Much like the Native American Indians, the Bashkirs made good use of their meager resources to satisfy their needs. They had found the distinction between desire and need, therefore, they had learned to enjoy the fruits of their labor. The Bashkirs serve Tolstoy as a model for balance. Neglecting his sense of logic, Pahom had been frequently drawn in by traders, peasants and dealers who played on his emotions. These dealers found Pahom's Achilles heel in his insatiable desire to become more successful through land ownership. Pahom rationalized his greed, focused on ambition, and neglected common sense.

After a time Pahom noticed that some peasant dealers were living on separate farms, and were growing wealthy... The seasons turned out well and the crops were good, so that he began to lay money by. He might have gone on living contentedly, but he grew tired of having to rent other people's land ... 'If it were my own land... I should be independent, and there would not be all this unpleasantness.'

Finally, as Pahom negotiates with the Bashkirs, his foolishness is revealed. Pahom overestimates the time it will take him to circle the land that he desires and his dreams of failure come to fruition. Pahom, in his

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