The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (novel)

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The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz
TheApprenticeshipOfDuddyKravitz.jpg
1st edition
AuthorMordecai Richler
Cover artistBernard Blatch (design)
CountryCanada
LanguageEnglish
GenreNovel
PublisherAndré Deutsch
Publication date1959
Media typePrint
Pages319 pages (first edition)
ISBN978-0-671-02847-3
 
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The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz
TheApprenticeshipOfDuddyKravitz.jpg
1st edition
AuthorMordecai Richler
Cover artistBernard Blatch (design)
CountryCanada
LanguageEnglish
GenreNovel
PublisherAndré Deutsch
Publication date1959
Media typePrint
Pages319 pages (first edition)
ISBN978-0-671-02847-3

The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz is the fourth novel by Canadian author Mordecai Richler. It was first published in 1959 by André Deutsch, then adapted to the screen in 1974.

Plot and setting[edit source | edit]

The novel is set mostly in Montreal during the 1940s. The city is old, dirty, crowded and divided into sections based on ethnicity and religion. There are poor districts, like St. Urbain Street, and there are wealthy districts, like Westmount and Outremont. Parts of the story take place in the Laurentian Mountains, in the resort town of Ste. Agathe and surrounding areas.

The novel focuses on the young life of Duddy Kravitz, a poor Jewish boy raised in Montreal, Quebec. Family, friends, lovers and teachers all contribute to Duddy's burgeoning obsession with power and money — desires embodied in the possession of land. As a child, Duddy learns from his grandfather that "a man without land is nobody," and Duddy comes to believe land ownership to be life's ultimate goal and the means by which a man is made into a somebody.

Duddy begins to move towards this goal by working for his Uncle Benjy. Their relationship is strained: Uncle Benjy, a wealthy clothing manufacturer with socialist sympathies, has always favored Duddy's brother Lennie, who wants to become a doctor. Uncle Benjy takes a dim view of Duddy's commercial ambitions, seeing them as avaricious and crass. During the summer after high school, Duddy takes a job as a waiter at a hotel in Ste. Agathe. He stumbles upon a beautiful and secluded lake while out with his soon-to-be lover and "Girl Friday" Yvette. A born entrepreneur, Duddy immediately sees that the lake has tremendous potential as the future site of a summer resort.

Duddy returns to Montreal and starts a company to produce bar-mitzvah films. To this end he hires Friar, a blacklisted, alcoholic, avant-garde filmmaker. Since Duddy's childhood, his father, Max, had told him stories about Jerry Dingleman, the local "boy wonder" whose rags-to-riches story is canonical among the residents of St. Urbain Street. Looking for help with his film company, Duddy attempts to engage Dingleman. The two travel to New York, but Duddy fails to secure any assistance from the boy wonder who sees Duddy as a naive upstart and uses him to ferry a package of heroin across the Canada-U.S. border. On the way back from New York he does, however, meet Virgil, an amicable and trusting American with a consignment of pinball machines for sale. Back in Montreal, Duddy rents an apartment and an office for himself and Yvette and, as the plots of land around Lac St. Pierre go up for sale, his Laurentian land empire grows.

After Mr. Friar tries unsuccessfully to seduce the comely Yvette he wordlessly and suddenly abandons his work with Duddy. Duddy rebounds by starting a new movie distribution business and hires Virgil as a travelling projectionist. A few months later, Virgil, an epileptic (a fact known to Duddy when given the job), experiences a seizure while driving, crashes the vehicle and is subsequently paralyzed from the waist down from his injuries. Yvette, blaming Duddy for the accident, takes Virgil to Ste. Agathe where she cares for him as he recovers. Duddy is left to show the movies seven days a week while still trying to oversee movie production at the same time. Meanwhile, Uncle Benjy finds he has a terminal illness. He tries to mend fences with Duddy, but Duddy rebuffs his uncle's request that the two see each other more frequently during his final days. Uncle Benjy's death acts as a trigger for Duddy who then experiences a nervous breakdown and refuses to leave his room for a week. Having no communication with the outside world, Duddy loses his clients, and is thus forced to declare bankruptcy and to give all his possessions over to the state (except for the land, which was all in Yvette's name due to Duddy's being considered a minor).

After Duddy recovers from his nervous breakdown, he invites Yvette and Virgil to move with him into his uncle's mansion, which was left to Duddy as an inheritance on the condition that the house not be rented out or sold. When Duddy hears of the last bit of land around Lac St. Pierre going up for sale, he exhausts his few remaining contacts for money but still comes up short. Pressed for time and desperate to claim the last piece of his empire, especially knowing Dingleman has expressed interest in the land and has the money for it, Duddy resorts to forging a cheque from Virgil's chequebook to acquire the outstanding money. Yvette finds out and tells Duddy's grandfather, who is embarrassed and unhappy with the way Duddy has obtained the land. This theft also prompts Yvette and Virgil to move out of the mansion and forbid Duddy to ever see them again. The ending of the novel is ambiguous: Duddy's selfishness and ruthless materialism, which supersede his love for Yvette, are obviously negative qualities. On the other hand, Duddy's youth, impatience with snobbery, and underdog status are ameliorating factors, and his gutsy entrepreneurial creativity is admirable.

An older Duddy makes brief, comic appearances in Richler's later novels. Duddy never loses his drive to make money.

Characters[edit source | edit]

The Kravitz Family

Other Characters

Major themes[edit source | edit]

See also[edit source | edit]

References[edit source | edit]