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One’s life is a personal venture. From the day of birth, people set goals and
expectations for themselves. Life is essentially one’s self-dictionary; lessons are learned,
morals are acquired, and conformity to a standard of right is attained. In the novel The
Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler, the reader learns about Duddy’s
ventures in his life, whether he succeeds or fails during his obstacles, the reader will gain
important morals and lessons in life itself. The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz is a
novel based on the life of Duddy Kravitz, Duddy’s character shows that he lacks
attention of others, has no remorse towards the people surrounding him, and his ventures
in achieving his goals and standards of life. Duddy Kravitz is a novel of morality because
of the manner Richler presents his main character (Duddy Kravitz), Mordecai Richler
presents a young Jewish boy, unaware of himself. The reader gains the lessons and
morals learned throughout Duddy’s life, and also attains a better sense of knowledge
itself with the many obstacles that we as society must go through.
Duddy is a young Jewish boy, who lives in Montreal with his father Max and his brother Lennie. As a young boy Duddy Kravitz reveals to the reader that he is a rebellious character, however, he is also a young boy who cannot distinguish between right from wrong as well. Lennie Duddy’s brother was the favored sibling because he had a successful career ahead of him as he was studying to become a doctor. Max Duddy’s father constantly judged Lennie and Duddy, he explains to Duddy that throughout Lennie’s years in Fletcher’s Field High School he had never gotten the strap, Max also reminds Duddy of how successful Lennie is and how proud he is of Lennie. Even Duddy’s uncle Benjy shows how concerned he was in Lennie’s future that he was paying for his school tuition and for any other payments Lennie needed (Richler page 63).
Uncle Benjy took pride in all of Lennie’s achievements. The medals, the scholarships, and ultimately his acceptance by the McGill University faculty of medicine. He paid the boys fees, gave him a weekly allowance, and was certainly prepared to set him up in practice when the time came.
This shows how much Benjy cared for Lennie as well as considering the fact that Benjy did not have any children of his own, he treated Lennie as own.
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Duddy is a character who always strives for attention both at home and at school. However, Duddy’s years at Fletcher’s Field High School shows how he had no remorse for the people surrounding him. As he grows he shows less and less of his contrition qualities and starts to gain a better understanding of people. In the beginning of the novel Duddy is represented as a rebellious child, he forms a gang called “The Warriors”. In this gang he teaches the boys to behave unethically, such as how to steal at Kresgels and how to split streetcar tickets so that one could be used twice, and how to smoke bubble pipes (pg.50). Duddy gets a thrill for doing wrong things, this is the only way he feels he gets attention. Duddy is a character who not only understands himself well, but others as well. Duddy does not comprehend that the ones surrounding him try to help him, instead of receiving the help he enjoys to irritate the people around him, Mr.MacPherson is a character that Duddy irritates the most in this novel. Throughout this novel we see Duddy constantly aggravating Mr.MacPherson, however, Duddy does not understand that he is a struggling man. With his ill wife who later on passes away also due to Duddy and his work, Duddy keeps on tormenting Mr.MacPherson without looking at the big picture. Duddy sings a song Catcher in the Rye, due to Mr.MacPherson’s drinking habits. These little actions that Duddy uses against Mr.MacPherson is what drives his teacher insane. Mr.MacPherson was a teacher who believed that using the strap was unethical, until he taught Duddy. The teachers at Fletcher’s Field High School constantly bombarded Mr.MacPherson that he was a coward for not strapping Duddy, ( page 30)
A typed note was waiting for Mr.MacPherson on his desk in room forty-one.
KRAVITZ MAY BE A BRAT AND AN EXHIBITIONIST AND A COWARD, BUT THE
GUY AFRAID TO STRAP HIM MUST BE A REAL CHICKEN.
This proof shows how the teachers at Fletcher’s Field High School treated Mr.MacPherson for his beliefs. Duddy was the only student however, who mistreated Mr.MacPherson to the extent that no other student had before. (page 34-35)
Mr.MacPherson did not even know how to hold the strap properly. So when he led Duddy Kravitz to the Medical Room that afternoon, breaking with a practice of twenty years, the actual blows were feeble, and it was Duddy who emerged triumphant, racing outside to greet his class mates. “Hey, look! Look, jerkos! Ten on each. Mac strapped me. Mac, of all people.”
Mr.MacPherson strapped fifteen boys that week, and his method improved with practice.
This example proves that getting strapped by Mr.MacPherson was an accomplishment for Duddy. Instead of understanding and sympathizing for Mr.MacPherson and his troublesome life, Duddy deliberately continues to torment Mr.MacPherson. After breaking his belief of twenty years to never strap one of his students, he continues his pursuit to change his way of teaching. Mr.MacPherson increased his drinking habits, and his strapping for boys who were mis-behaving. He also began to socialize less and completely shut society out. Duddy’s actions towards Mr.MacPherson made such an impact on Mr.MacPherson’s life that he became insane. Duddy proves how remorseful he was towards others, especially Mr.MacPherson.
In addition to Duddy’s remorseful approaches towards certain individuals, he attains many ventures throughout his life in achieving his goals. Throughout Duddy’s life he has only been interested in becoming successful and earning money. Duddy Kravitz takes upon many careers in order to gain knowledge of the business like world and a sense of stability for himself. During his studies in the parochial school, he earns money through different methods, such as defrauding stamp companies, even though earning money in such a manner is wrong it shows how determined he was to earn money and how he learned business at such a young age. As Duddy entered his young adult hood, he begins to understand more of the way his life is structured. Duddy also spent a lot of time with his grandfather Simcha Kravitz, Simcha takes great pride in Duddy and says to him “A man without land is nobody. Remember that, Duddel” (Richler page 49)
This quote represents a strong turning point for Duddy Kravitz, once his grandfather states that without land a man is nothing Duddy prepares to seek the land of his dreams. Duddy Kravitz begins to work a lot harder in order to acquire the land that he desires. He begins working in Ste Agathe, as a waiter at a hotel. There Duddy becomes one of the most favored waiters among customers, as well as one of the most hated waiters among his employees, especially Irwin. Irwin’s character was one who showed jealousy and always wanted to get his way, he had a one track mind and those that he disliked he did not care for. While working in Ste Agathe he meets one of the maids Yvette as the novel describes her a shicksa. Duddy and Yvette had become to have a close companionship towards one another. Yvette also aids Duddy in achieving his life long goal to have his land, because he is a minor and he cannot legally own land, Yvette signs off the papers for the land under her name. (Richler page 136)
“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 a subject”
This quote clearly states how Yvette had no choice but to sign the papers because she wanted Duddy’s goal in achieving this land to occur. Duddy returned home after the summer of being a waiter to establish his own company Dudley Kane Enterprises. With his limited knowledge of movie making and his mistaken trust in John Friar, his firm produces films of celebrations, such as bar mitzvah’s however they were extremely poor in quality. During his pursuit in trying desperately in achieving the land that he longs for he finally earns enough money to buy all of the land. However, he has also loosed a lot. His relationship between Yvette had broken off and his friendship towards Virgil failed as well. Duddy Kravitz had broken many rules throughout his life and at the end of the novel, even though he had obtained all the land that he desired, he succeeds through sinful, and despicable means.
Ultimately Duddy Kravitz is a novel of morality due to the style Mordecai
Richeler represents the young Jewish boy in his life long goal. As the reader gains a
better understanding of life as a whole and how deceitful one can be an his pursuit to
achieve in life or to get acceptance. The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz is a novel of
morality due to the fact that Duddy’s character shows that he lacks attention of others,
has no remorse towards the people surrounding him, and his ventures in achieving his
goals and standards of life. Furthermore, Duddy Kravitz is a very ambitious character and would set aside anything and everything to pursue his goals. It is clear that Duddy is a very sharp and intuitive young man, and if he sets his mind on something he will achieve, although he may not choose the right road ahead of him.