Tuesday, 2 December 2014

What is The Horse in the Moon About?


Pirandello’s starting point is our conviction that we live in imaginary worlds, which we tell ourselves firmly and smugly are real, reliable, logical and ‘out there’.  We are part of that reality, we tell ourselves, and who we are is who we think we are.   The person who answers to our name is a kind of unity, a ‘whole’  person who can make decisions, have consistent attitudes, feelings and values.   In other words, we think (most of us) that we are sane and the world is sane.  Pirandello sees all this as a kind of absurd joke.   We would say that wouldn’t we?  We’re too scared not to.    But really, he thinks, the world doesn’t make sense at all, and we are by no means ‘sane’.  
In Horse in the Moon we have a typical tool that people use to structure their worlds, marriage.   Marriage is both a legal (and financial) agreement, and a relationship of love.  But, Pirandello, thinks, law, love, and logic and ways in which we pretend to ourselves that things make sense. We lay a kind of net over reality which we then mistake for reality.  The net is all logical little squares and corners.  Reality is chaotic. Marriage and banks are logical.  They make us happy, we tell ourselves. All illusion.
In the story we have two newly weds of opposite dispositions, lively Ida, and earthbound Nino.   Nino is nearer to reality in that the marriage depresses him.   He is rich, and fat, and unadventurous except that he wants to be loved, very much in the way a child wants to be loved by a mother.    He doesn’t want to do any of the energetic things Ida does.  He wants her to cuddle him.
Ida is the opposite.   She wants to avoid the hot clammy but rich husband she now has by the agreement of her not very well off father.   He is embarrassed by the ceremony, or failure of ceremony -  ceremony as a means of convincing them that something real has happened.    The colonel’s response is to deny the failure but getting everyone out of the place.    Ida is perhaps unconsciously avoiding intimacy with Nino so she has all sorts of distraction which he takes part in very reluctantly.
The setting is an arid landscape without anything ‘optimistic’ in it.   Nine unconsciously feels a closeness to that landscape whereas Ida rushes about it in trying to invent something ‘nice’.   She’s making a great effort, and the more she does the more ‘obstinate’ Nino is getting.
Then they come upon the dying horse.   It’s a dead landscape with a dying animal in it.   Ida expresses sympathy with the horse’s suffering and immediately wants to do something about it.  Nino realises that nothing can be done.  It’s part of the landscape and indeed the local culture (‘savages’ as Ida’s father calls them).   But Idea tries, while Nino sinks into greater despair,  and greater sense of not being ‘mothered’ – after all his bridegroom seems to love the poor horse more than him -  until he has a vision, seeing the horse’s head silhouetted against the moon, rather as in a surrealist piece of art.  The ‘artistic’ vision he has -  the way nature has somehow contrived a work of art at least in how Nino sees it -   has a meaning, as works of art do, though not easily articulated ones.  
The horse has something to do with ‘nobility’ and the moon, we assume, has something to do with impermanence, flux, and indeed insanity (Madmen, or ‘lunatics’ are supposed to have a special affinity for the moon).  It’s almost ‘tragic’ in the sense that the horse is obviously done for, and yet reminds Nino of nobility.  We recall the connection between knightly honour and horses.   But the knightly honour is doomed, as in a tragedy.    And Nino himself is doomed by his unhealthy body to some sort of fit or a stroke perhaps, from which he is in the process of dying when Ida comes back having failed to get more than a few seeds.
Ida is horrified at how things have turned out, and shows much less compassion for her husband in his death throws than for the horse,  but her main feeling now is that she can’t face how things really are.   Her determined optimism and practicality are defeated and she wants to run away,  to ‘run away from reality’ as we see, and so she runs back home to Daddy.   She is in the end no more ‘adult’ than is Nino who wanted his Mummy in her, though perhaps realised from the start that he wouldn’t get that.   The vision of the horse on the moon as, he feels when he first sees it, ‘been there from the start’.  
They realise at last that they are living falsely.    They aren’t independent and adult at all.   There is no understanding between them.    But for a while they playacted.  
Pirandello is using ideas that later became common in the surrealist movement, and in Freud and post-Freudian thinkers like Jacques Lacan who laid great emphasis on the role of imagination in our construction of the ‘real’ world, and especially our own and other peoples’ identities.   The Lacanian way of thinking certainly seems to say something about the way in which the person we think of as ‘I’ is nothing more than the invention of other people.  We see ourselves, says Lacan, in the ‘mirror’ of their perceptions.   Really we don’t have a consistent identity.  In it’s simplest form this ‘mirroring’ comes about in our asking ourselves if we ‘look good’  if we are ‘liked’,  if we are ‘successful’,  the television as a ‘mirror’ we imitate. 
Or, another stream of thought -  our brains decide everything and we just go along with the flashing of the nodes.  We have no free will.  There are no morals, souls, or values.  We are computers. 
When you go home this afternoon remember that really you have no idea who your wife or husband is,   who you are,  what matters in life.   Nothing is fixed, clear, logical or predictable, or within your control.  Tonight, possibly, the roof of your house will fall in.   It won’t make any difference, but it might make you feel better, if you could bow down to your inner computer and beg it to bring you prosperity, or bribe it with chocolates,  or make love to it. . .

So, do not send to know for whom the The Horse in the Moon dies.  It dies for you.

Monday, 17 November 2014

A reading of Franz Kafka’s Story
A Country Doctor

Perhaps the story depicts a dream. Two features of a dream are that, first the normal causes and effects of waking life disappear, and second the dreamer is helpless as to what he dreams, what happens.    Impossible and illogical events occur, and the dreamer cannot control what they will be. 

Of course this dream atmosphere is common in Kafka’s work.   Here we have the contradiction of horses suddenly appearing just when needed from the pigsty, as if the need for the horses had somehow made them come into the story.   Then there’s the contradiction of the groom controlling the master, as the horses control the driver, and later rider.   Then the patient and his family determine the doctor’s ‘treatment’,   the doctor lies in the patient and becomes a second ‘patient’ himself.  

The doctor, however, perhaps unlike many dreams, comes to see his helplessness.    He rationalises his bad actions and poor diagnoses as deriving from  helplessness in the circumstances he finds himself in, circumstances he complains unconvincingly about,  particularly a lack of respect for his status of an ‘official’ doctor.

The structure of the story is perhaps a sort of allegory.  He desires to go on a quest to save a sick patient a hundred miles away, and gets horses -   primal forces of nature - at the price of sacrificing Rose (his youth, his idealism,  his ‘spring’ – all of which he’d hardly noticed when they were there) to a younger man, the brutal groom, who takes over his house.    He goes to meet ‘death’ and tries to deny it,  then lies in its bed naked like a corpse himself,  rationalise it as what happens to us all, and then tries to escape (his mortality perhaps) naked and old and directionless on the same horses, now lost in the snow of extinction.

Rose, an almost fairy-tale heroine,  is turned into a ‘rose-red’ wound,  what he has neglected -  sexual love, perhaps. associated with Spring and the youth of the year.   And she is wounded herself by the animal, biting, behaviour of the groom.  The wound is now infested with ‘worms’ of corruption (like Blake’s rose, for the English speaking reader)

The doctor has spent as ‘the doctor’, a role, for which he has desperately sought respect, without response from his community.  His status is but a fur coat which falls off.     His medical practice appears as superficial as his personality, shaped by the opinions of others, again helpless.   Though he claims that his problems stem from a loss of ‘ancient’ values.

The story seems more psychological and religious but the difference is sometimes thin.   I can’t help remembering – though probably Kafka would not have read it -  Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus.   Strange slow horses of the night occur there too, when Faustus finds himself facing hell because he can’t repent.

 ‘O lente, lente, curite noctis equi.
The stars move still, time runs, the clock will strike,
The Devil will come, and Faustus must be damn’d.

Notes Made Reading Through
He begins ‘I was in great perplexity’ and continues that way throughout the story.  A state of life.  The events in the story are perplexing because they don’t follow expected ‘logic’.  
The ‘urgent journey’ also suggests an allegory, of life, towards death, a quest.

He’s all ready but no horse, yet he’d know that before he got ready that the horse had died in the night.  The horse, as he later complains on his own behalf, was ‘ worn out by the fatigues of this icy winter’.  

The servant girl, not yet mentioned, the unwintery ‘Rose, is trying to help by trying to borrow a horse for him.   She’s good to him.  But ‘it was hopeless’.   This  whole story about hopelessness.   

As soon as the problem arises it is solved, dreamlike, as if by accident and without logic.   His frustration solves it, kicking the door.    Horses in a pigsty, AND the groom, who hasn’t told him!?

‘You never know what you’re going to find in your own house’, says Rose, a comment about self-knowledge.   The horses are brother and sister for the groom, and very powerful, a stress on animality and power.[1]  

As Rose goes, told by K, to help, she is attacked by the groom, bitten.  More animality.   First K takes up an authority stance, threatening punishment, then as always his action is dissipated and he thinks of excuses and needs.   Then the groom starts to dominate the ‘master’, K as always in this helpless and passive.

The groom tells K to get in, then tells him he, the groom, is not going with him, and K’s worry about Rose’s fate is lost in the power of the horses to carry him off without his apparently being able to control them.   Rose’s fate too is ‘inescapable’.   The doctor also lacks the authority you’d expect of the householder.

The journey is timeless.    The family inarticulate.  Then the patient wants to die.  Doctor’s role in curing is reversed.    First he finds the boy perfectly okay.  

He thinks ‘blasphemously’ that the gods are aiding him: sent the horses and ‘in a second’, and ‘bestow a groom’  but that triggers thoughts of Rose, but now he has the helplessness to fall back on that he’s a hundred miles away, having just separated himself from her by that amount!   Because he couldn’t control them.  Then thought of the horse prompts their slipping their reins and looking in almost humanly.  They’re ‘eyeing the patient’.

He NOW thinks he should escape, yet at the same time allows the patient’s sister to take his coat! She acts, him passive.   Seems to refuse the drink, and then very oddly feels ‘in the narrow confines of his thoughts’  That makes him feel ill.   How could that be is reason for refusing the drink.  Poison?  Drug?    The illness has to do with the place.

Wants to push the boy out of bed but can’t act, rationalising that ‘I’m no world reformer’ and does nothing.  Now tells himself he’s done his duty, then complains about pay and conditions.   Excuse of helping rose – far too late – to get him out of there.  

Now the boy’s connected to Rose.   ‘I had still to see that Rose was alright, and then the boy might have his way and I wanted to die too.’   But perhaps ‘boy’ now refers to the groom.   He wants to die too, perhaps out of helplessness for Rose,   but also because he finds himself in ‘endless winter’.  More excuses and grumbling about his difficulties, as self-distraction.  Easier to write prescriptions than deal with people.  Yes!!!

Again he resolves to go.  More complaints on how he is always put upon, complains of his ‘whole district’ who’d forced him to sacrifice Rose.   He puts his arm out for his fur coat, but the family have evidence, the bloody towel, which immediately alters all his previous examination.  Their conviction and pain is stronger than his observation.

As he approaches the boy the horses start to whinny, ‘I suppose…ordained by heaven to assist my examination of the patient’ -  mixing him wish and fact.  

Somehow he has missed that enormous rose-like wound, with worms in it.  Like Blake’s rose.  It’s a ‘blossom in your side’.   Then right after that, ‘The family was pleased; they saw me busying myself.  Pleased!

The boy then asks ‘will you save me?’  a different sort of question for ‘Let me die’.   His ‘quite blinded by the life within his wound’ .  What life?  That of evil, nature?

More complaints about the expectations of patients.   And then complaints about the loss of ‘ancient beliefs’  What are those?    Contrasts doctor with parson,   scientific with religious.   He goes on about feeling misused ‘for sacred ends’.

He says ‘and so’  they came and stripped him.  Perhaps NOW WITH some ancient belief, choir singing, the elders too.  A kind of sympathetic magic?
But even naked he retains a posture of composure.     

He’s put in with the patient, so now, as it were, doctor and patient are one, as if somehow this will make a cure.  Paganistically the moon is covered.   Ironically the sick man next to him lacks confidence in him.   No-one should have!   ‘Why, you were only blown in here, you didn’t com on your own feet.’   Passive as ever, and now only cramping the patient in his bed.

He tries to defend himself from the point of view of his status and role as doctor.   The patient, passive now as K, has to put up with this ‘apology’ and sees his role has having brought a wound into the world.    This sounds mythological.  Christian?.  And it’s a ‘fine’ wound, ‘my sole endowment’.  Perhaps a way of talking about the ‘aim’ of life being death.

The doctor against resorts to status and ‘philosophy’, putting things in proportion.  Everyone’s the same.   Everyman-like.   Then the wound is described as one in the side with an axe.  

‘Many a one proffers his side and can hardly hear the ax in the forest, far less that it is coming nearer to him’.   Does this mean that by being human and vulnerable we all proffer our side, but most of us never think about death, or its meaning?

This seems to satisfy the now dying boy.  At least it’s what the ‘official doctor’ says.   The boy, also, may also be the body of K, who is now about the ‘leave’. 

Third time he thinks of ‘escaping’.   And this time does.   The horses are ‘faithful’ and ‘obedient’ – all that are.    He rides on one of the horse’s back, not in the gig, the horses ‘barely fastened’ to each other.   But the horses can’t gee up.   Instead ‘slowly, like old men, we crawled through the snowy wastes’ behind them the ‘faulty’ song of the children about rejoicing because the doctor’s in bed beside you.   Is this religious?  Pagan? 

‘Never shall I reach home’.   This sounds like an analogy to death,  ‘flourishing practice’ done for, a ‘successor robbing me’,  Rose the victim.   None of his patients will help him.  He feels betrayed.   Then the last sentence

‘A false alarm on the night bell once answered – it cannot be made good, not ever’.

Is it that he’s made a mistake, or that doing anything in life is responding to a ‘false alarm’,  that of hope, healing, doing good?

Sunday, 5 October 2014


Notes on Ivan Bunin:
An evening in Spring

                                                 SOME POINTS TO DISCUSS

·         The mistress of the house a moderately well-off land-owner who still lives a simple life.   She shows her authority, but does not really assert it, and when she goes out to see to the cows the relationship between the beggar and the moujik gets worse.   She always wears her gala dress.  Why?   Why is she in the story at all?

·         Is the moujik unemployed?   Why?    What is he doing at the mistresses house?  Is it just to get free booze?   Why is he allowed?

·         The beggar is God-fearing, and in his way at peace with himself and the land.   Or so it seems.   His heart is, perhaps, where his treasure is?   His proof to the moujik that he is honest is, it seems, that he has had six children and once owned a house?  Does that make sense?

·         Imagery.   Bunin often mentions the  gentle light on the landscape.  Is that his adopting the beggars viewpoint?   Why is the idea of the beauty of the light repeated?   This sense of nature’s beauty, whatever’s happening to human beings, likes Bunin to  literary realism (and his friend Chekhov). 

·         There are some implied comments about the society the story is set in?   The moujik questions ask :  ‘what can you get out of the ground, now, when it ain’t been plowed or sown?’   The beggar takes it not as a rhetorical question and very perceptively replies, “Well, now, of course. . . .  Whoever has the land, for example. . . .”.   But he is shouted down and told who is smarter and to “Answer what you’re asked”,  which he started to do.   What’s behind all this?

·         The moujik is embittered by very many things, it seems.  His sense that he isn’t really superior to the beggar at all (hence the bluster).   His lack of work?  Is it unemployment, or is it the failure of his own crops in some way?  He is not at one with the landscape, or the people around him.   He has an obsession with his (lack of) rank and authority.
·         Is there a thematic meaning in the little episode where the woman ‘threatens’ to give her child to the beggar, and the child is so used to that sort of thing that she doesn’t seem scared?

·         Dignity.  The beggar eats the cracknel the little girl has been sucking.  He is humble.  Can’t imagine the moujik doing that.   Why is the beggar given this passive acceptance of his lot?   Or is he, in fact, a very successful beggar

·         Authority/power.    How many different ways this comes into the story.   A comment on the society?   A Christian theme?   An implied point about nature and the soil

·         What do we understand from the singing episodes? 

·         The beggar saves his money and has been almost life long.  The moujik boasts that he spends lots of his on drink
·         Several ways in which the moujik tries to deal with his sense of failure and lack of self-worth.  What are these?
·         Is there something special about the moujik’s idea that the beggar’s calico is a grave shroud?
·         Is the end of the story being foreshadowed here?   Is it being foreshadowed in the references to Satan.

·         The final demand for the beggar’s money is accompanied by an appeal to the Love of The Queen of Heaven.   And he’s to give the Moujik his money ‘of your own will’. 

·         There is no ‘twist’ at the end of the story.  We’re lead to expect the murder and it happens.  Except at the end the mujik seems to throw the money away.  I’m not sure if he does or not.

·         Is the freshly plowed field into which he casts the amulet, metaphorical in any way?  And his head turning into stone?   He is already, emotionally, a stone, for all his ranting and tearfulness.   Or is it much more subtle, to do with, “And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.



Born: Voronezh, Russia, 10 October 1870. Education: Educated at the Gymnasium, Elets, 1881-85, and then at home in Ozerki; University of Moscow. Family: Married 1) Anna Nikolaevna Tsakni in 1898 (separated 1900), one son; 2) Vera Muromtseva, with whom he had lived since 1907, in 1921. Career: Editorial assistant, Orlovskii vestnik [Orel Courier], 1889-91; secretary, department of statistics, Poltava district administration, 1892-94; opened bookstore, 1894, and distributed publications of Tolstoi’s, q.v., publishing house, Posrednik: arrested for selling books without a license, but escaped prison sentence; entered literary circles in St. Petersburg and Moscow, 1895: in early years associated with the Symbolist publishing house Skorpion, and, after 1901, with Gor’kii’s, q.v., Znanie publishing house until 1909; travelled to Switzerland and Germany, 1900,Constantinople (now Istanbul), 1903, Egypt, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), and Singapore, 1911, and three times to Capri, visiting Gor’kii, 1911-14; lived in Moscow, Kiev, and Odessa during Revolutionary turmoil, 1918-20; moved to Constantinople, 1920, and eventually arrived in Paris, 1923, via Serbia and Bulgaria: settled in Grasse, southern France. Elected to the Russian Academy of Sciences, 1909. Awards: Pushkin prize, 1903, 1909; Nobel prize for literature, 1933. Died: 8 November 1953.

This story was written in 1914 when he lived briefly with Gorky in Capri. 


he week following the Passover, was named "Fomin" (named after the Apostle Thomas, who believed in the Resurrection of Christ after he felt the wounds of the Savior). It is popularly known as Wired. Traditionally at this time commemorate the dead. Every day, St. Thomas's week has as its title, and customs, they are all associated with the commemoration ...

 Monday called "wires". It is believed that the Easter period, the dead come to visit their homes to celebrate their own Easter. We are also living in this earthly world, it is believed to meet the deceased, to (treat) them and then help them return to that light. Thus, according to tradition, on Monday begin to see off ancestral to the other world.

  Tuesday - This is the main day of St. Thomas the week, which is called Radunitsa, Radonjic, Radanitsey, Radovnitsey. In the 19 century Navy Day and Radonitsa merged into one and have to cope in a vivid manner. According to scientists, "Radonitsa" comes from the word "joy", which brought the resurrection of Christ.

Ancient Slavic custom, was a holiday Radonitsa, which was held in the spring in honor of Rhoda, the creator of the universe, the first Slavic god. At Radonjic turned to dead ancestors asking for protection home, protect it. Young asked the blessing for love and marriage. On the eve of Radonjic usually heated bath for ancestors, prepared towel and soap, but do not wash.

Also, they brought goodies and crushing them on the graves of loved ones (pastry, pancakes, memorial kutyu, painted eggs, beer, wine, etc.). Then were treated yourself. At the churchyard burned funeral fires. This day was made to sing songs and dances led. Grief is often passed in merriment. Not for nothing is known proverb: for Radonjic morning plow, the day crying, and jumping in the evening. And all because, after Easter, spring began field work on Radonjic people visited the cemetery, and to the evenings fun.

From these pre-Christian rituals, funeral rites of spring are on St. Thomas's week. Parish Charter requires visiting cemeteries after Easter week: "Easter is for believers is the entrance into a world where abolished death, and where all who can resurrect, already alive in Christ." On this day in churches committed catholic requiem. People go to the cemetery to the graves of their loved ones and symbolically Christ with them. Kutyu tasting, drink vodka or wine, no clinking glasses. They remember the warm words of the deceased. It is believed that the deceased shared a meal with the living. Remains treats crumble, and a memorial of vodka poured on the grave. Part of the funeral foods (candy, sweets, cakes, painted eggs) distribute around and kids "for the repose of the soul."

 Thursday. considered the most dangerous day of St. Thomas the week: the day the dead come to their homes. To adequately meet them, in one of the rooms for the night left the feast and open windows. In the room is strictly forbidden to enter until dawn. To protect themselves from unwanted corpses simultaneously undertaken and certain measures of protection: house sprinkled poppy seeds on the corners and lighted candles before the icons passionate. If the family is drowned, the entertainment left in the water or thrown into a river.

In Fomin [b] Saturday 
in the village came the expulsion of death. With the whole village gathered young and old, women and armed with brooms, pokers, and other household goods, and shouted death curse. It was believed that the longer and more fun to frighten the ghost, the more secure you can get rid of any disease. In addition, people goes round the cemetery with knives in their hands and shouted: "Run, run, evil spirits!". In this way, sought to alleviate the suffering of the deceased after death.

  Sunday at St. Thomas's week is called the Red hill. On this day, trying to get rid of all the sad thoughts and feelings. At elevations arranged massive mall, fun games and danced. Also on this day occurred bride future brides. On the eve of the villages went oklikalytsiki, who performed under the windows of newlyweds Cheering song and invited all residents to the mall

Also called bast fiber. any of several strong, woody fibers, as flax,hemp, ramie, or jute, obtained from phloem tissue and used in themanufacture of woven goods and cor

Dans l'ancienne Russie, un moujik était un homme de la campagne, un paysan de condition modeste. Le sens de ce mot a un peu évolué, il désigne à présent un homme de basse classe sociale. Il désigne aussi, péjorativement, un être rustre et ignorant

Izba                                                      Round cracknel           MOUJIK

eldritch (comparative more eldritch, superlative most eldritch)

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Sholom Aleichem:
The Passover Guest[i]

Sholom Aleichem

He was born in 1859 in Pereyaslav,  Ukraine.   His name is the Yiddish pseudonym of Shalom Rabinowitz, based on the shalom aleichem (peace be unto you) greeting.  Done to avoid offence, especially Hebrew oriented father.  Yiddish was his preferred language for writing, but by many rather despised.  He wrote stories, poetry and drama

His father was a merchant whose business failed and the family fell into poverty.   His mother died of cholera in 1872.   He was thirteen.  Next year he went to the Gymnasium (‘grammar school’) and graduated in 1876.  He began writing in Hebrew.

In 1883 he married  the well-to-do landowner’s daughter, Olga Loeve.  Later he, in a speculation, he lost the money inherited from her father and had to flee from creditors.  

In 1904 after witnessing the pogroms they left for USA, but then went to Geneva to join the rest of his family.  He worked as a lecturer.  In 1908 he collapsed on a train, due to a relapse of a form of TB.   He and his family  supported after this by admirers and friends. 

In 1914 he went to USA again, New York and died 13 May 1918, aged 57.

In his life he pressed for Yiddish to be the national Jewish language and was a Zionist, serving as a Zionist delegate at the Eighth Zionist Congress at the Hague (1888).   He was superstitious about the number 13.   He became enormously popular as a writer.  There were some 100,000 mourners at his funeral.   His play Tevye’s Daughters formed the basis of the film musical Fiddler on the Roof.

The Story:  some thoughts

In one sense a very simple story indeed:  a guest comes, stays the night, and runs off with the silver.

In one way it’s a typical ‘twist in the end’ short story.  We are led by events into a particular interpretation, and then discover things aren’t like that at all.   We are led to see the guest as friendly, interesting and devout,  and so to trust him.   But he is a fake.

The American linguist, Labov,  set out a framework into which stories (tend to) fall.

1    An ordinary routine event of some kind
2    Something out of the ordinary, a crisis, which unbalances the ordinary routine
3    This creates a problem for the main character to solve
4    The problem is pursued until resolved (not necessarily solved)
5     The conclusion is both fitting but also unexpected.

Sholom Aleichem’s story doesn’t fit this framework as straightforwardly as many stories do.   We could summarise the structure as

1   The routine Passover celebrations involving hospitality to strangers
2   The guest is ‘out of the ordinary’ in his identity, as is his homeland as he describes it.         He doesn’t upset, but changes the family Passover celebration
3   The ‘problem’ that follows from 2  does not appear directly.   But in retrospect we see         it as something like having a thief in the house, except no-one realises.  He’s also      a ‘temptation’  to them to devalue the good life they have when presented with a     false (materialistic) alternative.   A spiritual problem.
4   The problem is  not ‘resolved’, by the main character’s doing something.   The main           characters aren’t aware of the problem.  They allow it to be resolved by doing             nothing,  by their misplaced trust and admiration.
5   The conclusion is their realisation their loss of what they had and had almost begun          to disparage, and the boy’s loss of a ‘dream’.   Unexpected, but when we replay it     in our minds and see the guest for what he really is, perfectly fitting.

How we see this structure is affected by how we read.  Do we begin to feel even as he talks that the guest’s tales are not quite genuine?   After all we see it all through the inexperienced eyes of a boy.   If/when we get suspicious, we’re the more aware of the family’s contribution to their own loss.

In retrospect we notice the way the narrator, and the guests eyes, draw attention to such things as the mother’s diamond earrings, and her pearls (p4), and how he includes the maid in his audience -  ‘in such a friendly, such a very friendly way!’ (p5)

Further notes

The Passover.     This celebrates the Jews freedom from slavery.   Do any aspects of this feast work their way into this story?

Orientalism.           A tendency to look at people from different cultures as humanly different,  often in a disparaging way.   Much is made, in the story, of the guest’s difference.    Edward Said wrote about this.[ii]  The narrator (a boy we should note) says in a mixture of folktale and Biblical language:
It is not every day that a person comes from perhaps two thousand miles away, from a land only to be reached across seven seas and a desert, the desert journey alone requiring forty days and nights. (p4)

Sefardim.     From the Hebrew word for Spain.   It refers to Jews who lived in the Iberian Peninsular at the beginning of the 2nd millennium.  They were driven out in the late 15th century by the Catholics.

Levites.   Hebrew ethnic group. According to Wikipedia: ‘the Sons of Levi were the only Israelite tribe that received cities but were not allowed to be landowners "because the Lord the God of Israel Himself is their inheritance" (Deuteronomy 18:2)’.   According to Encyclopaedia Britannica Levites were given a special religious status, conjecturally, for slaughtering idolaters of the golden calf during the time of Moses (Ex. 32:25–29). They thus replaced the firstborn sons of Israel who were “dedicated to the service of the Lord” for having been preserved from death at the time of the first Passover (Ex. 12).

(1)   The narrator switches so often from present to past back to present.  Not sure why.
(2)  He sometimes puts himself very self-consciously into the narrator’s role.                
‘Such was the conversation that took place between my father and the beadle, a day before Passover. . .(p1)

‘The fact is this:  our guest from beyond the desert and the seven seas has disappeared’(p6)

A Paradox

The guest is not rich, but he tempts them with imaginary riches.   Their imaginations are greedy: they have enough.     The guest presents himself as culturally rich, not materialistic.   But he steals materialistically.     
Or does he? Or is there more to this?    In his land with riches everywhere there is a rule that when he leave ‘you cannot take it with you’.   Is he a kind of messenger?   Have they got the message?

He takes their material goods from them, and their  servant (privilege).     Instead of the hope of even more goods, they have  less.    

The boy tells the ‘true’ tale.  It is worth telling because of the ‘false’ tales the guest tells tales within this tale.   But is the guest’s tale false?

[i] It’s on the web at http://www.readbookonline.net/readOnLine/55720/
[ii] As a cultural critic, Said is best known for the 1978 book Orientalism. In it, he analyses the cultural representations that are the basis of Orientalism, a term he redefined to refer to the West's patronizing perceptions and depictions of Middle Eastern, Asian and North African societies—"the East". He contended that Orientalist scholarship was, and remains, inextricably tied to the imperialist societies that produced it, which makes much of the work inherently political, servile to power, and thus intellectually suspect -   Wikipedia