The chief is the leader of the Bashkirs. It is he who formally agrees to Pahom’s request to take some land, and he lays out the details of the agreement. Pahom dreams of the chief, seeing him sitting outside the tent laughing. Then when the exhausted Pahom nears the hillock where the chief and the other Bashkirs wait, he sees the chief sitting on the ground again laughing. It appears that he is laughing at Pahom’s folly in being too greedy for land.
The dealer appears in part 4 of the story. He is the man who first tells Pahom about the Bashkirs and their land. He tells Pahom that he has just returned from the Bashkirs, from whom he bought a lot of land very cheaply. He explains to Pahom how he can acquire land for himself, almost for nothing.
The Devil sits behind the stove listening to the argument between Pahom’s wife and her sister. He also listens to Pahom’s boastful thought that if he had enough land he would not fear the Devil. The Devil resolves to get Pahom into his power. The Devil reappears in Pahom’s dream, complete with hoofs and horns, laughing as he sits looking at Pahom’s corpse.
Pahom is the central character, the only one whose thoughts and actions are presented in any detail. At the beginning he is a peasant who, unlike his wife, is not content with his lot. He believes that he, like all the peasants, does not have enough land. When a small landowner sells her land, Pahom makes sure that he buys some of it— forty acres, in fact. As a landowner, he cultivates the land and prospers. For a while he is contented but he soon becomes restless. He still believes that he does not have enough land. When a visiting peasant tells him of a distant place where he can acquire more land Pahom sets his heart on going there. When he gets there he acquires the land he desires and is much better off than before. Again, he is content for a while, but then gets restless. When a passing dealer tells him about the Bashkirs, who will give him as much land as he wants for almost nothing, he once again sets off to a distant land. Everything goes well for him in his negotiations with the Bashkirs, but when he goes on foot to mark out the land he wants he gets too greedy. He tries to cover too much ground and exhausts himself trying to get back before sunset to the place where he started. He falls down dead; his greed for more land has killed him.
Pahom’s sister-in-law comes to visit Pahom and his wife. She is the older of the two sisters, and she lives in a town rather than the country. Her husband is a tradesman and the family is wealthy. They all wear fine clothes, eat well, and are able to visit the theater and other entertainments. She looks down on her sister because the younger woman has none of that city finery or refined manners. She tells her she will die poor, and so will her children.
Pahom’s wife is happy with her lot, living in the country and being married to a peasant. When her older sister visits and sneers at her humble way of living, she defends herself vigorously. She says they may not have much but they are content. They do not have to worry about losing their wealth, since they have none. They may never be rich, but they expect to live a long life, nonetheless. They will always have enough for their needs.
The peasant appears briefly in part 3 of the story. The peasant has been traveling, and Pahom allows him to stay the night at his house. The peasant then tells him about the land beyond the Volga River, where people who settle there are granted twenty-five acres of good-quality land. Immediately, Pahom conceives the desire to move there.
Simon is the peasant whom Pahom blames for cutting down five of his lime trees at night. Simon never appears directly in the story, but he is one of only two characters identified by name. Simon appears to be innocent of the charge and he is acquitted after a trial, since there is no evidence against him.
Sara Constantakis, Thomas E. Barden – Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, vol. 28 (2010) – Leo Tolstoy – Published by Gale Cengage Learning.