The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz - Duddy is No Monster

2774 Words12 Pages
The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz - Duddy is No Monster

"I think you're rotten," says Yvette at the end of The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, "I wish you were dead" (Richler 318). This sentiment is echoed throughout a substantial amount of the criticism of Mordecai Richler's tale. At best, we question whether Duddy has learned anything during his apprenticeship; at worst, we accuse him of taking a tremendous step backwards, of becoming an utterly contemptible human being. When Duddy steals money from his friend and admirer, Virgil, to pay for the final parcel of land around Lac St. Pierre, it may seem that he has sunk to a low from which he may never recover; but careful consideration of the events leading up to the theft, the turn of events after it, and finally, Duddy's emotional reaction to both Yvette's anger and Simcha's disappointment indicates that Duddy is not the monster that he is frequently made out to be.

Duddy Kravitz is raised in a poor part of Montreal; people without hope are common, and, often, it is necessary to stoop below one's standards, just to make a living. Max Kravitz, for example, who has a respectable job as a taxi driver, also works as a pimp, to make ends meet. Duddy Kravitz grows up idolizing Jerry Dingleman, the "Boy Wonder" who, according to Max's stories, is someone who has been able to fight his way out of the St. Urbain St. squalor, and become a success. The oral legends Max tells of his accomplishments, of his humble beginnings, and his slow rise to greatness recall heroic epics like The Odyssey, told in ancient Greece to educate and inspire the youth of a warrior culture. "When the Boy Wonder loses his temper," Max tells Duddy, "he could eat bread and it would come out toasted. That...

... middle of paper ...

...otional reaction to Virgil's ensuing epileptic seizure show that he considers this wrong and does not want to do it. Critics are harsh with Duddy, whose brightness and enthusiasm allow all readers to hold to a high standard, but there is hope for him at the end of the novel: Duddy is young. No human being is perfect and Duddy is a human character, with real emotions, strengths and weaknesses. Duddy is alive in the pages of Richler's novel, far more human than monster, with a collection of good and bad characteristics like all human beings.

Works Cited

Richler, Mordecai. The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. London: Andre Deutsch, 1959.

Wainwright, J.A. "Neither Jekyll nor Hyde: In Defence of Duddy Kravitz." Canadian Literature 89 (1981): 56-73.

McGregor, Grant. "Duddy Kravitz: From Apprentice to Legend." Journal of Canadian Fiction 30 (1980): 132-40.
Open Document