In the book The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler, Duddy Kravitz is the apprentice to life in order to find out the truth about himself. Different characters come in and out of Duddy’s life and act as masters towards him. These people all have specific lessons to teach him, and it’s up to him to either act upon what he’s learned or ignore it.
Duddy Kravitz is a young man whom we can say is being an apprentice to life. What he needs to do is discover the truth about himself and how to apply it to his life. His quest through his apprenticeship is to find his true identity and to succeed in the goals that he sets for himself.
By being an apprentice to life, Duddy is learning about how to be different types of people by imitating their personalities. When he comes out of apprenticeship and becomes a man, Duddy has to decide on one type of person to be for the rest of his life.
Duddy’s Uncle Benjy tried to explain this and make it clear to Duddy in his letter by saying, “A boy can be two, three, four potential people, but a man is only one. He murders the others.” (p.279) I think that this was the best advice he ever got, but he didn’t need it; in the end, he allows himself to become the con-artist, the sly scammer person without even realizing that he had a decision in the matter.
Simcha, Duddy’s grandfather, was the person whom Duddy looked up to and wanted to please because he was the only one who truly respected and loved Duddy. It was also Simcha who planted the dream for land into Duddy’s head when he said to him, “A man without land is nobody.” (p.101)
In Duddy’s apprenticeship, Simcha is one of his masters who teaches Duddy about striving for something and having the determination and perseverance to achieve in life. What Duddy failed to hear or understand was that the achievement of a dream would mean nothing if it wasn’t achieved honestly and fairly, respecting the rights of others.
By being an apprentice, Duddy is allowed to make mistakes because he is just learning. One of his first mistakes was only listening to half of what Simcha was saying and becoming obsessed with his dream. The single-minded pursuit of his dream caused him to destroy and trample on people like dirt and without thinking in order to get what he wanted.
A good example of this is what Duddy did to Virgil. “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…Duddy’s heart began to bang as soon as he entered the bank, but nobody questioned the signature on the cheque, and so he rushed down to his own bank with it and deposited it there. Rushing into the house, he announced, “I’ve got the money.’ ” (p.304)
Yvette, Duddy’s girlfriend, who greatly aided Duddy in his pursuit of the dream, tries to help Duddy understand relationships. Yvette is Duddy’s first serious girlfriend and, in my opinion, is very tolerant and forgiving of Duddy. She puts up with all of his faults, the way that he uses her and even helps him by going out of her way to do him favors like driving to and from Ste-Agathe constantly.
In her head, she drew a line, and Duddy was finished when he crossed it. He came close many times even right at the very beginning when he tries to bribe her with money by saying, “If you promise me that I’ll give you fifty dollars.” (p.100) This shows that Duddy needs to learn a lot about his emotions; he has a very materialistic viewpoint on life, thinking that money brings happiness and that you can’t go wrong if you’re rich. So, he uses the money to try and buy respect, forgiveness, or whatever it might be that he’s trying to win back.
When Duddy finally crossed the line by such a huge margin by robbing Virgil, Yvette knows that every value she’s tried to instill in Duddy was mutated and deformed by his dream which had become like a mind-controlling disease, and she leaves him for good. She tried to teach him about relationships, love, and also about responsibility when she said, “I want you to know all the details. You’re not going to get off easy…You knew it was dangerous. I warned you…There’s no getting around it. You’re to blame. ” (p. 246)
She knows that in order to love someone else, one must love oneself first, so she tries to reflect back to Duddy and image of himself by telling him what he does to make her mad and pointing out his mistakes like an instructor would. However, Duddy never learns from his mistakes because he never sits down and thinks about what kind of person he is and how he could change to become a better person. Yvette was a teacher on the subject of love and relationships with Duddy as the student who unfortunately failed her class.
Dingleman is another one of Duddy’s masters who teaches him about competition. The idea of competition makes Duddy work and strive even harder than ever to achieve his goal. He has to be first in making down payments and in order to be first he sacrifices the importance of people. Duddy doesn’t know when the competition is over and reality kicks in.
At the end of the book, Dingleman introduces reality to Duddy when he stated, “Alone, you’ll never raise the money you need. With my help we could turn this in a model resort town in five years.” (p.310)
Duddy is so lost and confused with his ideas that he can’t deal with reality, so when Dingleman puts forth his proposition to become partners, Duddy kicks him off of his land. With this action, the dream of his resort will continue to flourish and prosper in Duddy’s mind but will stay trapped in there forever. We know this because of how the book ends. Duddy is still proud of his land and thinks that it will benefit him because of how he was treated in the coffee shop.
In the end, Duddy doesn’t discover the truth about himself because his land still means something to him. He comes out of apprenticeship by becoming one man who is corrupt and selfish but is the man he chose to become by not listening to his good or positive masters. Duddy is ready to face the world because he is no longer an apprenticeship and has achieved his goal even though he sacrificed his morals, the respect of others, and his conscience, to do so.