“The apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz” by Mordecai Richler Essay
“The apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz” by Mordecai Richler
Throughout the novel Duddy tries to become someone who deserves respect. He wants to prove everyone that he can become a “somebody” and believes he can make Max and Simcha proud of him. Duddy Kravitz grew up without much support from his family: his mother Minnie died, when he was about six years old, and he doesn’t remember anything about her, and Max, his father, clearly preferred Lennie, his older son, to Duddy. Max loved to tell his friends anecdotes about the local gangster, the great Boy Wonder over and over again. “Be like the Boy Wonder”, he said to Duddy, encouraging him to become a gangster.
Since Duddy was desperately seeking for Max’s attention and thought that the only way to win his father’s love and respect was to become someone just like Dingleman, Duddy grew up, idolizing Jerry. Duddy has all the qualities he needs to achieve his dream of becoming a landowner, but with Boy Wonder as his role model, he chooses the wrong road towards his goal. To make others think he is worthy, he starts to crazily pursue money. Even Duddy’s role model, Jerry Dingleman comments, “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)
Duddy always knew how to take advantage of people in order to get what he wanted. As the leader of the “Warriors,” Duddy was able to manipulate his friends as he taught them about stealing, and smoking. They become his protection while Duddy kept on hurting not only his enemies but also innocent people. But after meeting his “hero”, Duddel subconsciously obtains most of the Boy Wonder’s bad qualities, like ruthlessness and dishonesty. He starts to treat his employees with no respect they deserved just for working for Duddy, fires many secretaries for no reason and acts disrespectfully towards his clients. For example, after the screening of his first movie, Duddy says to Mr. Friar, “I could sell Mr. Cohen a dead horse easier than this pile of ” (Richler, 170), but instead of apologizing to Mr. Cohen and reducing the price, he just keeps on lying to Cohen saying that the movie is a piece of artwork. He hurts his former friend Cuckoo Kaplan and also takes full advantage of Vigil, due to his disabilities.
He’s lost the respect of his grandfather, he sold the furniture from his uncle’s house, and, worst of all, he’s lost a girl who really loved him. But there were also some good qualities, which Duddy developed from Max’s anecdotes about Dingleman. Just like the Boy Wonder, he became a God-fearing person, and someday wanted to become a sponsor of the “Birth of Israel”, and the “Jewish National Fund”, while Max didn’t even contribute to the synagogue. Being God-fearing people, of course, doesn’t stop both of them from hurting other people. Even though in the beginning of the book I had sympathy for both, Boy Wonder and the young Kravitz, in the end of the story I didn’t feel sorry for neither of them. Without realizing it, Duddy slowly became an exact copy of Jerry Dingleman.
In the end, they both tried to fool each other, while arguing about the land, and became angry when they didn’t succeed. Duddy was mad, that Dingleman tried to become partners with his and share the ownership of the Kravitztown, but he himself tried to blackmail Dingleman and then stole the money from Virgil to buy the last part of the land. Duddy calls Dingleman a cripple, but he himself becomes one: he is a psychological cripple, while Dingleman is both, physical and psychological.
When Duddy buys all the land he wants, he loses all of the friends he had, but he doesn’t become rich either: not only he doesn’t have enough money to make use of his land, in fact, he can’t even afford bus fare. Duddy becomes a nobody with land. Despite that, Max still tells the story of the new Boy Wonder to his friends, even though he knows that what Duddy has done does not make zeyda happy. But, unlike Dingleman, the new head of the Kravitz family may still have a chance to realize that money and power are not the most important things in his life. Duddy still has time to ask Simcha and his friends for forgiveness, he still has time to become somebody.