In the Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, Mordecai Richler clearly intends to portray his main character as a failure. Duddy understands perfectly well that a man must pursue his dreams, which is why he is one of the most motivated young man of his time. From the moment Duddy hears his grandfather say, “A man without land is nobody,” he is prepared to seek the land of his dreams. This aspiration of Duddy’s is very respectable, but unfortunately his methods are totally inappropriate, and that leads to him being a failure.
The moment that Duddy began to immerse himself into the establishment of his film company, it could be seen that he was willing to do anything to get money, even if he had to lie. For example, the film Duddy made for the bar mitzvah was of extremely poor quality, and as a result, the product was an obvious failure. Duddy himself knew that well: “Duddy didn’t say a word all though the screening but afterwards he was sick to his stomach.” (Page 148). Later, Duddy said to Mr. Friar: “I could sell Mr. Cohn a dead horse easier then this pile of _” (page 148). After this particular incident, Duddy does not even speak honestly to his clients. In conclusion, the only way Duddy sells his waste films is by telling lies. He always lies to gain money, and that’s all that Duddy cares about.
Duddy has never been loved in his family, so originally he was quite content to know that Yvette cares about him. At the beginning, Yvette and Duddy are in love.
“It’s so nice to see you lie still for once, she said.
Your always running or jumping or scratching.
Duddy was surprised and flattered to discover that
anyone cared enough to watch him so closely.” (Page 92)
As time passed by, however, Duddy began to use Yvette as a tool. The main reason for that is Duddy was striving to get the land, and since he could not legally own it as a minor, he employed Yvette to act as a figurehead in his purchase. This treatment of Yvette, combined with her breaking ties with her family due to Duddy being a Jew, is what ruins their relationship. As Yvette states: “My brother found out I’m living with you…I won’t be able to see my parents again.” (Page 218).
Virgil is another type of victim that Duddy takes full advantage of, due to his physical disabilities. This can be seen when Duddy takes the smuggled pinball machines from Virgil. Duddy cheats him out of the money for the machines by giving him a truck and a job that covers the cost of the truck. However, the cost of the truck was lower than the cost of the pinball machine. Another way Duddy take advantage of Virgil is by stealing money out of his bank account for the land
“Duddy took a quick look at Virgil’s bank balance,
whistled, noted his account number and ripped out
two cheques. He forged the signature by holding
the cheque and a letter Virgil had signed up to the
window and tracing slowly.” (Page 304)
Duddy uses other tragic disability as nothing more than another suitable way to advance to his own goals.
In conclusion, Duddy has obviously chosen the wrong kind of man to become, which leads to his apprenticeship being a failure. He has chosen to become a crooked person, telling lies to Mr. Cohn, Virgil, and Yvette. He takes advantage of Yvette just for her land, and he takes advantage of Virgil due to his disabilities. Duddy can be seen as a corrupt and ruthless man. It is totally unfortunate that he chose the wrong path at a young age, and continued moving along that path. He ends up being seen as a failure.
Richler, Mordecai. The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz.
Penguin Books: Toronto, 1984.