The Apprenticeship
of Duddy Kravitz is the fourth
novel by Canadian author Mordecai Richler. It was first published in 1959. The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz,
published by Mordecai Richler has long been regarded as one of the most
important Canadian novels. The
Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz is the story of an enthusiastic Jewish boy
growing up in an underprivileged neighbourhood in Montreal. It is both a
portrait of a young man who is desperately determined to be successful and of
the various communities he must deal with in his journey working-class Jewish,
French Canadian, and Anglo-Saxon establishment. The novel opens in 1947, while
Duddy is still in high school. He creates havoc throughout his neighbourhood,
tormenting various people who has insulted or offended him. (enotes1) Duddy
Kravitz is obsessed with money, power and land. With the obsession of power and
money we see the theme of greed starting to progress from the very beginning.
Greed can be applied to situations where there is a passionate desire for
fortune and wealth. In the novel greed is shown by his relations with his
friends and even with what he was told as a young child. Duddy Kravitz grows up
in the “ghetto” a part of a city, especially a slum area, occupied by a
minority group or groups. In the ghetto there are characters who are not the
greatest influence on the major character. Since the novel takes place in 1947,
the Jewish people are seen as the minorities even after the second world war.
In this case, where Duddy grows up, it is full of Jewish and other minority
groups. Considering that the novel takes place in the life of Duddy Kravitz,
there are many times in which case there are controversial characters who
influence Duddy’s decisions in a negative way. With these characters they lead
Duddy, to the wrong decisions. Finally, the last major theme or topic in the
novel is the theme of stereotyping. As mentioned above, the Kravitz’s grew up
in Montreal’s ghetto. The Kravitz were a Jewish family in 1947, which was a
negative period for all Jewish people, after the second world war which ended
in 1945. The main case of stereotyping, was how Jews were represented as cheap,
liars and will do anything to make an extra dollar or two. Richler uses
characters in this book to display their culture and expose their stereotypes.
To conclude, Duddy Kravitz is a young man whom we can say is being an
apprentice to life. What he needs to obtain in the course of the novel is the
truth about himself and how to apply it to his life. His journey to accept the apprenticeship
starts by finding identity and to succeed in the goals that he sets for
himself. This might lead to wrong decisions which leads back to greed,
stereotypes and the people in which he hangs around with.

The novel starts off in the year 1947, after the
second world war. This was the year in which Canada started to loosen its
immigration policy and started to accept more Jewish people from Europe.  Canada loosened its immigration policy and by
1949 accepted over 40,000 Holocaust survivors. In following years, Canada was
again the destination, this time for many French-speaking Jews, seeking refuge
from aggression and volatility in several North African nations.(canada1).
These new Jewish people, had to deal with stereotypes, which are present in the
novel. The year marked an unprecedented shift in both Jewish self-perception,
and the worlds perception of Jews. Just as our present-day knowledge of the
Holocaust clouds our ability to imagine a time when that genocide went
nameless, so too does the contemporary news media’s continual coverage of the
Israeli armed forces render it difficult to imagine a time when Judaism and
machismo were thought irreconcilable. (Robin1)

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In the novel, the first stereotype we are introduced
to is Duddy’s father, Max Kravitz. Max is the father of Duddy, and Duddy’s
brother, Leanie kravitz. We see how proud Max is of Leanie and, he is proud of
the way in which Duddy tries to live on his own. During the beginning stages of
the novel, we see that Max does not attempt to support his children, however
that changes as the book progresses as he will do anything to make his sons
happy. The first stereotype which Max Kravitz gives off is the typical, people
in the ghetto do not seem to behave or, all they do is cause trouble. In this
case when Duddy, finds out that Max is a pimp. “Duddy smiled; he laughed.
“Jeez,” he said proudly. “That’s something. Jeez.” Max
slapped his face so hard that Duddy lost his balance and fell against the
counter. … “You’re a pimp.” “Get out, Duddy. “Duddy got up
and ran. (Richter 27). In this part of the novel, you see the “Pimp in the
hood” type stereotype. Although this quote also shows, the stereotype, of
Jewish people doing anything for money. Max Kravitz also, stereotyped many of
the characters in the novel as well. Max would always tell, his sons about a
“Boy wonder”. A man who does not have to work and who has a large amount of
money, someone who was, Max’s friend. When Duddy was a little kid he constantly
would be told stories from his father about the Boy Wonder, Mr. Jerry
Dingleman. His father, Max spoke with great joy when re-telling these stories
about him. This caused the Boy Wonder to be a humongous role model in Duddy’s
life as he contributed inspiration to Duddy, as a child. When Duddy finally got
the opportunity to meet the Boy Wonder, Duddy was ambitious for Jerry to teach
him how to become a better superior man. However, his expectations were shot
down as Jerry didn’t provide Duddy with a chance to speak to him. When Duddy
finally confronted him, all the beliefs that Duddy had for Mr. Dingleman were
crushed. Therefore, we see Max trying to show other characters as high and
mighty while they are just regular people. Dingleman grasped that the boy was
repeating somebody else’s platitude, and he laughed in his face. ‘I wish you’d
stop laughing at me. I’m not that stupid. And while we’re at it why did you lug
me all the way down to New York? For a joke?’ ‘I know you uncle. Benjamin
Kravitz. He’s a childish man. I don’t like him.’ ‘Maybe he doesn’t like you
either.’ ‘Maybe. But you like me.’ ‘What makes you so sure?’ ‘There’s something
wrong. A mistake somewhere when a boy your age is already pursuing money like
he had a hot poker up his ass.'(Richler, 161). This was when Duddy finally found
out that this his childhood hero, that his father told him stories about, was
nothing but just a sick old man who sells drugs in order to become wealthy.

The second character who Mordecai Richler, seems to
portray as a typical stereotype, is Duddy Kravitz himself. To be more precise,
a younger Duddy Kravitz, the one who we see in part one and two in the novel.
During the 1940’s and 1950’s when the novel was taken place, Canada was dealing
with the problems of Anti-Semitism. As the novel was taken place during this
time, we see this “anti-semetic” view come into reality in Duddy’s elementary
school, and in his workplace in the diner. To start off, the stereotype of how
Jewish people would do anything for money can be traced back to a very young
age, in grade four. In parochial school, Duddy would earn a quick buck or few,
with methods that can be viewed as, wrong if he was not a child. Duddy would
take advantage of the fact that minors cannot be sued in Canada. With this
knowledge Duddy, would defraud stamps companies and sell hockey sticks. The
second stereotype we see with ‘younger Duddy’ is when he is working with the Film
Company called the ‘Dudley Kane Enterprise.’ While working for this company,
Kravitz, does many wrong things, further imprinting the ‘typical Jewish
stereotype further into him’.

To conclude Duddy has certainly elected to be the
wrong kind of man. He has chosen to become a crooked person, a ruthless,
callous man. Undoubtedly, Duddy was a young man who had great potential. Sadly,
Duddy adopted the wrong path at such a young age and continues with that path
to his adulthood. He ends up being a failure. Perhaps his lack of discipline
from his early years is one of the most important attributes to his tragic fall
in The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz.

In the novel, controversy is shown through the entire
novel. We see this by Duddy’s decision making, and the peer pressure that is
used to make money decisions. These controversial decisions lead into Duddy’s
money hungry life, and they just “feed the beast” instead of making Duddy think
from right to wrong.

The first case of a controversial character is a
friend Duddy meets in high school.  Linda
Rubin, was someone who Duddy trusted. Linda made it
seem like she had feelings for Duddy as well but, as the novel progresses she
manipulates him to waste money in a roulette game, “Maybe I’m dirt
today. That bastard of a black marketeer Cohen can give me twenty bucks and a
lecture about gambling and feel good for a whole week. But you listen here,
kiddo. It’s not always going to be like this. If you want to bet on something,
then bet on me. I’m going to be a somebody and that’s for sure.” (Richler,
105). This made Duddy happy as he finally trusted someone.  In addition to Linda another controversial
character in the novel was Max Kravitz and “boy wonder” Jerry Dingleman. As
stated above, Duddy looked up to the advice of his father Max, but he also
wondered how “boy wonder” obtained all this money. This lead Duddy into the
greediness in the novel.

The definition of greed is the intense and selfish
desire for something, especially wealth, power, or food. In The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz,
this definition of greed is shown throughout the novel. Duddy uses people—often
convincing them and himself that his intentions are good—that when he has land,
everyone will be taken care of: his grandfather; his girl Friday, Yvette; and
his employee, Virgil. One of his means (when he is too young for more viable
options) for getting rich is to make films of bar mitzvahs. He is
successful—parents want to see their children on film. But his first effort is
an admixture of bizarre images masking as social commentary and Jewish ritual.
(Lundquist1). This quote by Suzanne Lundquist perfectly describes the
definition of greed in The Apprenticeship
of Duddy Kravitz. The role of greed in the novel is shown how he treats characters and how the quote a “man with no
land is a nobody”. This quote came from Duddy’s uncle Bengy.

Duddy Kravitz uses manipulation in the interest of his
greediness towards other characters in the novel.  The first instance in which we can see
Duddy’s greediness comes with his relationship with Yvette.  Yvette Durelle, was Duddy’s lover in most of
the novel. However, Duddy doesn’t see her for true beauty, he only sees her for
sexual needs as well as demanding to show him the land over the hills. “Yvette
wanted to wait, but Duddy insisted and they made love on the carpet”. “I don’t
get it,” Duddy said. “Imagine guys getting married and tying themselves down to
one single broad for a whole lifetime when there’s just so much stuff around”.
“People fall in love,” Yvette said. “It happens.” “Planes crash too,” Duddy
said. “Listen, I’ve got an important letter to write. We’ll eat soon. OK?”
(Richler 191). This quote shows the reader the greediness of Duddy to Yvette,
how he only wants her for sexual pleasures.

The quote from Uncle Bengy, shows Duddy’s greed as
well as he uses Yvette to purchase the land over the hill, so he is not seen as
a nobody to her anymore. “The farmers would be wary of a young Jew, they might
jack up prices or even refuse to sell, but another French-Canadian would not be
suspect…” (Richler 100). Duddy uses Yvette’s French-Canadian name to make sure
the land he wanted to buy would get sold to him and for a fair price.

Finally, the last uses of greed in the novel, comes
from the relationship between Duddy and Virgil. Primarily, Duddy owes Virgil
money Duddy does not have. Instead of paying him back, Duddy convinces Virgil
of a way in which he does not have to pay him back that benefits Duddy, by
offering him a job. However, this job benefits Duddy more than Virgil.  “Despite this contrast and Duddy’s ability to
manipulate Virgil over the job and truck, Duddy is innocent of any real
knowledge of epilepsy and certainly less informed than Virgil in this regard.” (Wainwright1).

Duddy also cheats Virgil into giving him money. “Duddy
took a quick look at Virgil’s bank balance, whistled, noted his account number
and ripped out two cheques.” (Richler307). Even though Virgil told Duddy that
he could not loan him any money, Duddy resorts in stealing from Virgil and
believes that he will forgive him just like he has countless other times. To
conclude the theme of greed is seen from the very beginning. Duddy, uses his
friends and even his ‘girlfriend’ to further his personal need even though it
is the wrong thing to do.

In conclusion, The
Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz is a comical novel which shows, the life of
a young boy into a grown man who, the reader sees making wrong decisions
constantly. Duddy seems to make the wrong choices in life, as this starts off
as a habit he would make in his younger years, as he would manipulate the rules
to sell hockey sticks and comic books. This manipulation would later be shown
by the people who loved and cared for Duddy as he treated his best friend
Virgil, a man who has serious health issues wrongly and used him for Duddy’s
own personal benefit. He treats his girlfriend Yvette the same as well. His
greed comes from what he was told in the past. Duddy has obviously chosen the
wrong kind of man to be. He has chosen to become a crooked person, and a
ruthless man. In the end we see the tragic fall of the main character in the
novel, by greediness, controversy and, the stereotypes put upon him.