Mordecai Richler’s novel, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, takes a low-life young man, who will lie, cheat and steal from friends and family and makes him seem to be a sympathetic character. It is Richler’s that allows the reader to suspend judgment on the young man and pity his life, for Kravitz thinks that he is unloved, even by his family, his mother is dead and he has no real friends. Through the use of pity, humor and a sense of ‘virtuous by comparison’ Richler shows the reader Duddy Kravitz’ humanity and lets the reader feel sympathetic to him.
The sadness in Kravitz’ life is told from the very start when Richler writes that Kravatiz’ mother is dead and he is afraid to ask his father if his mother ever loved him. “Once more Duddy was tempted to ask his father if Minnie had liked him, but he couldn’t bring himself to risk it,” (146). It must be hard for a young man to lose his mother but even worse to have doubts if he was even loved or not. He was too afraid that the answer might be ‘no’, so he never got up the nerve to ask his father. This made him wonder all his life.
It must have made him sad to even think such a thing. It is easy to feel sympathy for a boy who has lost his mother, and even more if the reader knows the boy feels so unloved. The humor in Duddy Kravitz is not so clear to see. It is the kind that sneaks up on the reader while he is thinking about what is being said. It is sarcastic and sometimes very mean. It makes fun of people, but sometime the humor makes fun of Kravitz and that is one more way that Richler makes the reader feel sympathy for the character in his book. It is difficult to hate someone who can make us laugh.
His use of satire is not obvious, like all good satire. It is right on the edge of being true, and it is sometimes not clear right at first if Richler is being serious or if he is making fun of the things that he writes about Duddy Kravitz. “I don’t know a camera lens from a horse’s ass, so stop worrying. …I’ve got a feeling that the important thing about this kind of movie is not the symbolism like, but to get as many relatives and friends into it as is humanly poss…,” (130), Richler writes, when Kravitz is planning to make films of a Jewish holy ceremony
It would be hard to like someone as low as Duddy Kravitz unless the writer added characters that were even lower than him. This makes Kravitz seem like he had the right to do a lot of the things he did just to keep them from cheating him. He lives in a world where businessmen take advantage of young people and do anything they can to make money. He lives in a time when greed is something that is good to have and if he does not cheat someone they will cheat him first. The guy called the ‘Boy Wonder’ sees that Kravitz’ plan can make money and is ready to steal if from him if he can.
“He’s angry at you, Duddy, and when the Boy Wonder gets–,” they tell Kravitz (371). He understands that the rules of business are that people must do anything they can to win. So the people around him are even lower than he is and he looks virtuous when he is compared to how low they are. The reader sees that Kravitz is not mean but he is just dumb and does not always understand that he is hurting other people. All of his life he has been hurt. His mother died and left him. His father and brother are cold and did not care about him.
His father likes the older boy better and brags on him. “Duddy’s a dope like me…Lenny’s twenty-one, he’s had scholarships all through school,” his father says, to compare the two boys (21). So Richler uses pity to make the Kravitz sympathetic, he uses the humor to get the reader to see nothing Kravitz does is very bad and he uses the comparisons to show that Kravitz is only doing what other people in his life do. He was taught to be how he is. Bibliography Richler, M. The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz New York: Washington Square Press 1959
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