Personality in Mordecai Richler's The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz

Personality in Mordecai Richler's The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz

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Personality in Mordecai Richler's The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz

Each person has a distinct, identifiable personality. These personalities are the basis of who we are and how we live our lives. Growing up, these personalities are formed through associations and manipulations of the personalities of others. This is clearly evident in Mordecai Richler's The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. In this novel, we follow Duddy Kravitz's life from early adolescence to adulthood. Throughout the novel, signs are given as to the development of Duddy's good and bad personalities. Even at the early stages, Duddy's uncle Benjy was the only one who could identify them and knew what the end result was going to be. Despite all this, we watch these personalities grow to the point where they are beginning to overpower each other and eventually, only one will remain.

As a young student, Duddy began his life by making friends and increasing his status. This can been seen when he demonstrates himself as a person who opposes authority. This gives him the look of a bold, daring individual; someone who should be looked up to and respected. Duddy's charisma also came from made up stories that were used to spark other people's interests in Duddy. This is evident when he refers to his brother "Bradley"; "He's going to take me to South America. We're going to get a yacht. I mean all he has to do once he's out is dig up that buried money and —". Duddy tells these stories as if they were real just as the way his father Max does at the local coffee shop on St. Urbain Street. Max on the other hand, tells stories of the infamous "Boy Wonder" Jerry Dingleman who is a local legend amongst the people living on St. Urbain Street. Despite these stories not being real, Duddy uses them to help him manipulate others into believing what he wants them too. This becomes an invaluable asset as Duddy leaves school and begins to set out on his own.

Aside from Max being a major influence on Duddy, Simcha Kravitz, Duddy's grandfather was another major influence on him. Unlike Max or Duddy, Simcha was genuinely respected. He did not have to create elaborate stories to captivate and intrigue the minds of his listeners in order to gain their respect. He acted properly in the community and was eventually known as "a man of singular honesty and some wisdom".

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Despite Duddy's bad habits and scheming ways, Simcha's good-natured ways are a part of Duddy's conscience. For this reason, Duddy becomes infatuated with Simcha's saying "a man without land is nobody". To Duddy this is the right thing to do regardless of the cost. Duddy's conscience becomes torn apart into two radically opposite ends; on the good end, Duddy believes it is good to own land, and on the bad side, Duddy believes that nothing can restrict him from doing so. From this he can become as ruthless as he wants so that he can fulfill the good side of his conscience.

Simcha Kravitz also had a profound effect on another individual, his son, Benjy Kravitz. In many ways Benjy and Duddy are alike. Both started out on ambitious dreams and used those dreams to build their reality. For Duddy, his dreams were concrete, while Benjy's were open to whatever his path takes him to. For this reason, Benjy opposes Duddy. He sees the drive and spirit that Duddy has and compares it to his own and realizes that Duddy's logic is flawed. "I'd look at you and remember my own days as a hungry salesman in the mountains and how I struggled for my first little factory. I'd look at you and see a busy, conniving little yid." Benjy realizes that Duddy has the potential to become successful as he has but wonders at what cost Duddy will be willing to accept.

As Duddy grows older, Benjy sees the emergence of two distinct personalities in Duddy, one that is good and one that is evil. "There's a brute inside you, Duddel—a regular behemoth—and this being such a hard world it would be the easiest thing for you to let it overpower you. Don't Duddel. Be a gentleman." This is Benjy's final appeal to Duddy to straighten his life out after Benjy has finally realized that Duddy would be in a position to hurt Simcha who is both dear to Duddy and Benjy. We can see early in the novel that Benjy was not the only person who "hoped [Duddy] would not hurt Simcha too hard." Simcha was not the only person lined up to get hurt as a result of Duddy's quest to seek his perfect plot of land. Duddy's family, friends, and associates all were negatively affected by Duddy. They were all romanced by the side of Duddy that knew how to manipulate people and then betrayed by the other side which new nothing else but to acquire the perfect plot of land. Benjy clearly saw this and the different personalities brewing inside Duddy as a result. He also noticed the one ready to come out and "[murder] the others."

Although people were ultimately hurt by Duddy the softer side was much enjoyed. Duddy quickly made friends with Yvette and Virgil, and even some older, more respected gentlemen such as Mr. Calder. We even see Duddy's commitment to the family when he goes to New York to find his aunt Ida and convinces her to come back to Montreal to see the dying uncle Benjy. Duddy even shows that his conscience is not all that bad when he feels remorse and regret over causing the death of Mr. MacPherson's wife. This to an extent is the side of Duddy's personality that Benjy wants Duddy to become so that Duddy can lead the family into the next generation of Kravitz's.

Benjy Kravitz knew exactly who Duddy Kravitz was. All his observations were completely true, regardless of what Duddy may or may not have thought. Benjy primarily saw the evil side of Duddy brewing and was right to caution Duddy not to let this personality determine who he is for the rest of his life. Benjy did notice the good but saw that the good was unable to escape from the bad. Despite being two different people, Benjy and Duddy are completely alike, except for the fact that they both chose contrasting personalities to shape who they will be in life.
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