Video Summary Story of Greed The story is a classic tale of need versus greed. While people can live happily with their needs, the lure of more can destroy such happiness. In this story, the same happens to Pakhom, a hard-working farmer who has a small piece of land. One day they are visited by their sibling who hails from the city.
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I An elder sister came to visit her younger sister in the country. The elder was married to a tradesman in town, the younger to a peasant in the village. As the sisters sat over their tea talking, the elder began to boast of the advantages of town life: saying 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 theatre, promenades, and entertainments.
The younger sister was piqued, and in turn disparaged the life of a tradesman, and stood up for that of a peasant. You live in better style than we do, but though you often earn more than you need, you are very likely to lose all you have.
Our way is safer. We shall never grow rich, but we shall always have enough to eat. Yes, if you like to share with the pigs and the calves!
What do you know of elegance or manners! However much your good man may slave, you will die as you are living-on a dung heap-and your children the same. But, on the other hand, it is sure; and we need not bow to any one.
But you, in your towns, are surrounded by temptations; today all may be right, but tomorrow the Evil One may tempt your husband with cards, wine, or women, and all will go to ruin.
But the Devil had been sitting behind the oven, and had heard all that was said. She had always lived on good terms with the peasants, until she engaged as her steward an old soldier, who took to burdening the people with fines. Pahom paid, but grumbled, and, going home in a temper, was rough with his family. All through that summer Pahom had much trouble because of this steward; and he was even glad when winter came and the cattle had to be stabled.
Though he grudged the fodder when they could no longer graze on the pasture-land, at least he was free from anxiety about them. In the winter the news got about that the lady was going to sell her land, and that the keeper of the inn on the high road was bargaining for it.
When the peasants heard this they were very much alarmed. We all depend on that estate. The lady agreed to let them have it.
Then the peasants tried to arrange for the Commune to buy the whole estate, so that it might be held by all in common. They met twice to discuss it, but could not settle the matter; the Evil One sowed discord among them, and they could not agree. So they decided to buy the land individually, each according to his means; and the lady agreed to this plan as she had to the other. Presently Pahom heard that a neighbor of his was buying fifty acres, and that the lady had consented to accept one half in cash and to wait a year for the other half.
Pahom felt envious. Life is becoming impossible. That steward is simply crushing us with his fines. They had one hundred roubles laid by. They sold a colt, and one half of their bees; hired out one of their sons as a laborer, and took his wages in advance; borrowed the rest from a brother-in-law, and so scraped together half the purchase money.
Having done this, Pahom chose out a farm of forty acres, some of it wooded, and went to the lady to bargain for it. They came to an agreement, and he shook hands with her upon it, and paid her a deposit in advance. Then they went to town and signed the deeds; he paying half the price down, and undertaking to pay the remainder within two years. So now Pahom had land of his own. He borrowed seed, and sowed it on the land he had bought. The harvest was a good one, and within a year he had managed to pay off his debts both to the lady and to his brother-in-law.
So he became a landowner, ploughing and sowing his own land, making hay on his own land, cutting his own trees, and feeding his cattle on his own pasture. When he went out to plough his fields, or to look at his growing corn, or at his grass meadows, his heart would fill with joy. The grass that grew and the flowers that bloomed there, seemed to him unlike any that grew elsewhere. Formerly, when he had passed by that land, it had appeared the same as any other land, but now it seemed quite different.
III So Pahom was well contented, and everything would have been right if the neighboring peasants would only not have trespassed on his corn- fields and meadows. He appealed to them most civilly, but they still went on: now the Communal herdsmen would let the village cows stray into his meadows; then horses from the night pasture would get among his corn. Pahom turned them out again and again, and forgave their owners, and for a long time he forbore from prosecuting any one.
But at last he lost patience and complained to the District Court. They must be taught a lesson. Pahom passing through the wood one day noticed something white. He came nearer, and saw the stripped trunks lying on the ground, and close by stood the stumps, where the tree had been. Pahom was furious. If I could only find out who did this, I would pay him out. Finally he decided: "It must be Simon-no one else could have done it.
Simon was summoned. The case was tried, and re-tried, and at the end of it all Simon was acquitted, there being no evidence against him. Pahom felt still more aggrieved, and let his anger loose upon the Elder and the Judges. Threats to burn his building began to be uttered. So though Pahom had more land, his place in the Commune was much worse than before. About this time a rumor got about that many people were moving to new parts.
I would take over their land myself, and make my estate a bit bigger. I could then live more at ease. As it is, I am still too cramped to be comfortable. He was allowed to stay the night, and supper was given him. Pahom had a talk with this peasant and asked him where he came from. The stranger answered that he came from beyond the Volga, where he had been working. One word led to another, and the man went on to say that many people were settling in those parts.
He told how some people from his village had settled there. They had joined the Commune, and had had twenty-five acres per man granted them.
The land was so good, he said, that the rye sown on it grew as high as a horse, and so thick that five cuts of a sickle made a sheaf. One peasant, he said, had brought nothing with him but his bare hands, and now he had six horses and two cows of his own. He thought: "Why should I suffer in this narrow hole, if one can live so well elsewhere? I will sell my land and my homestead here, and with the money I will start afresh over there and get everything new.
In this crowded place one is always having trouble. But I must first go and find out all about it myself. He went down the Volga on a steamer to Samara, then walked another three hundred miles on foot, and at last reached the place.
It was just as the stranger had said. The peasants had plenty of land: every man had twenty- five acres of Communal land given him for his use, and any one who had money could buy, besides, at fifty-cents an acre as much good freehold land as he wanted. Having found out all he wished to know, Pahom returned home as autumn came on, and began selling off his belongings.
He sold his land at a profit, sold his homestead and all his cattle, and withdrew from membership of the Commune. He only waited till the spring, and then started with his family for the new settlement.
IV As soon as Pahom and his family arrived at their new abode, he applied for admission into the Commune of a large village. He stood treat to the Elders, and obtained the necessary documents. Pahom put up the buildings he needed, and bought cattle. Of the Communal land alone he 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. At first, in the bustle of building and settling down, Pahom was pleased with it all, but when he got used to it he began to think that even here he had not enough land.
The first year, he sowed wheat on his share of the Communal land, and had a good crop. He wanted to go on sowing wheat, but had not enough Communal land for the purpose, and what he had already used was not available; for in those parts wheat is only sown on virgin soil or on fallow land. It is sown for one or two years, and then the land lies fallow till it is again overgrown with prairie grass. There were many who wanted such land, and there was not enough for all; so that people quarrelled about it.
Those who were better off, wanted it for growing wheat, and those who were poor, wanted it to let to dealers, so that they might raise money to pay their taxes. Pahom wanted to sow more wheat; so he rented land from a dealer for a year. He sowed much wheat and had a fine crop, but the land was too far from the village--the wheat had to be carted more than ten miles.
After a time Pahom noticed that some peasant-dealers were living on separate farms, and were growing wealthy; and he thought: "If I were to buy some freehold land, and have a homestead on it, it would be a different thing, altogether. Then it would all be nice and compact.
He went on in the same way for three years; renting land and sowing wheat. The seasons turned out well and the crops were good, so that he began to lay money by. Wherever there was good land to be had, the peasants would rush for it and it was taken up at once, so that unless you were sharp about it you got none. It happened in the third year that he and a dealer together rented a piece of pasture land from some peasants; and they had already ploughed it up, when there was some dispute, and the peasants went to law about it, and things fell out so that the labor was all lost.
Pahom bargained and haggled with him, and at last they settled the price at 1, roubles, part in cash and part to be paid later. He drank tea with Pahom, and they had a talk.
How Much Land Does a Man Need Summary by Leo Tolstoy
How Much Land Does a Man Need?