The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (book)

The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz (book)

infobox Book |
name = The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption =
author = Mordecai Richler
cover_artist = Bernard Blatch (design)
country = Canada
language = English
series =
genre = Novel
publisher = André Deutsch
release_date = 1959
media_type = Print
pages = 319 pages (first edition)
isbn =
preceded_by = A Choice of Enemies
followed_by = The Incomparable Atuk

"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 1974 as film "The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz."


Geographic: Setting is often used by the author to set the tone or atmosphere of a novel. Richler does this very well. The setting seems to be a reflection of Duddy himself. Elements in almost every setting are juxtaposed and contrasted opposites.

"The City – Montreal': A “European city,” the city is old, dirty, crowded, divided into sections based on ethnicity and religion. The city is a stark, bustling place:“Below, the city and the river hummed obligingly under a still cloud of factory fumes” (170). There are poor districts, like St. Urbain Street, and there are wealthy districts, like Westmount and Outremont. The Jews believe that the only way to bridge the poverty gap is to be materially successful like the Gentiles. The Jews who try to bridge the gap of poverty pursue money amorally (e.g. Mr. Cohen). The Jews who are unsuccessful in bridging the poverty gap live off the success of others (e.g. Max Kravitz, living vicariously through the success of Boy Wonder).

"The Poor Neighbourhood - St. Urbain Street": This is the middle of the Jewish ghetto: dirty, decaying. “To the middle class stranger…one street would have seemed as squalid as the next…Outside staircases everywhere. Winding ones…rusty and rickety ones. Here a prized plot of grass splendidly barbered” (13). There is an occasional “patch” of green grass to show that people are trying to make something of their lives. The lack of success is reflected in Duddy's grandfather Simcha’s garden: the futility of the lives of the people who live on St. Urbain street. “Each year the corn came up scrawnier and the cucumbers yellowed before they ripened, but Simcha persisted with his planting” (45). The neighbourhood does not lack life; it is the scene of many lively events (e.g. parade “The March of the Fletcher’s Cadets). The motif of decay is again present when the parade passes the senior citizens’ home. Decay doesn’t simply apply to the physical neighbourhood, but also to the lives of the people. The contrast of parade and decay can also be applied to Duddy: he can be “an intelligent young boy” or a “scheming little bastard.”

"The Wealthy Neighbourhood - Westmount / Outremont": Westmount is where the rich people live in mansions. “The higher you could climbed up splendid tree-lined streets the thicker the ivy, the more massive the mansions, and the more important the men inside” (170). Westmount is seen as “above” (above labour, poverty, etc) the hellish city. Duddy is out of place in this neighbourhood: he is from “down there.” This disparity becomes clearly evident in the conversation that Duddy has with Mr. Calder in chapter 11.

"The Lake (Ste. Agathe) / Laurentian Mountains – Natural World": Yvette Durelle takes Duddy Kravitz to the lake: Yvette appreciates the beauty of nature, while Duddy only thinks about the land’s development for profit. Lac St. Pierre is Duddy’s dream. He lies, cheats, and steals to buy the land, which is equated with the Promised Land.

Plot introduction

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. Duddy soon believes land ownership to be life's ultimate goal and the means by which a man is made.

The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz is about a young teenaged boy growing up in Montreal, Quebec on St. Urbain Street. He is a poor Jewish boy who is given nothing as a child and must work if he wants anything. His friends, family, teachers, and girlfriends all lead to his passion in power, money, and owning land. Duddy is told by his grandfather that a man without land is nobody; this motivates him to do whatever he has to in order to own land as soon as possible. He begins by taking a summer job at a hotel in St. Agathe, where he soon stumbles upon the land he wants to own. He finds this land while on a date with Yvette, a chambermaid from the hotel. Upon finding the property, he heads back to Montreal to start a film company. The film company becomes a huge success and he is soon able to begin to purchase a portion of the land. Duddy then makes a profit on ten pinball machines from Virgil, an epileptic, who is then offered a job on the distribution side of the movie business, and all he has to do was show the movies. A couple of months later, Virgil experiences a seizure while driving and is paralyzed from the waist down. Yvette leaves Duddy to take care of Virgil full time. This accident leaves Duddy to show the movies seven days a week and try to produce movies at the same time. When Duddy’s uncle Benjy dies, this acts as a trigger for Duddy who then experiences a nervous breakdown and doesn’t leave his room for a week. This week of no communication with the outside world causes Duddy to lose all his clients, thus forcing him to declare bankruptcy and to give all his possessions over to the state (except for the land, which is not in his name). After Duddy recovers from his nervous breakdown, he invites Yvette and Virgil to move into his uncle’s mansion with him. Duddy finally owns all the land, but embarrasses his grandfather who is unhappy with the way he obtained the land. (Duddy had obtained the final portion of the land after stealing from Virgil.) This robbery prompts Yvette and Virgil to move out of the mansion and to ban Duddy from ever seeing them again. Finally when all is said and done, Duddy is happy that he accomplished his goal of owning land and being somebody.



*Simcha Kravitz
*Benjy & Ida Kravitz
*Max & Minnie Kravitz
*Duddy Kravitz
*Leonard (Lennie) Kravitz


*Peter John Friar: He is an untalented film-maker who teaches at Wellington College, but is ultimately a failure. He is a drunken outcast who is amoral. Friar is one of the people who Duddy looks up to.
*Milty Halpirin: Milty is the gullible, spoiled son of a real estate agent. Milty looks up to Duddy and badly wants to be part of "The Warriors." Duddy’s gang picks on him and tricks him into destroying his mother’s flower garden by opening the tulips, which causes the flowers to not bloom. These actions further develop the theme of decay in the novel. Also, these actions reveal what kind of character Duddy and his Warriors are.
*Cuckoo Kaplan: He is a comedian at Rubin’s Hotel. Cuckoo is one of Duddy's only real friends--this friendship allows the reader to sympathize with Duddy. Without Cuckoo, Duddy would not be seen in a good light. The friendship between Duddy and Cuckoo ends when Duddy tells Cuckoo that he lacks talent.
*Virgil Roseboro: He is an American that Duddy meets in New York. Duddy sells Virgil’s smuggled pinball machines. Duddy eventually cheats Virgil out of money after Virgil is severely injured in the accident.
*Jacob Hersh: One of Duddy’s classmates, Hersh is a young communist and desires peace and order. He won a scholarship to McGill University, but dropped out to become a writer.


*Mr. John Alexander MacPherson: MacPherson is a teacher at Fletcher Fields High School, which Duddy attends. He, unlike the other teachers, refuses to use corporal punishment on the students, although when his sick wife dies, he begins to hurt the boys, and becomes a little crazy.


*Yvette Durelle: Duddy meets Yvette while he is working at the hotel. She is the first to show him Lac St. Pierre, and becomes an intimate friend and business associate to Duddy.
*Linda Rubin
*Jenny MacPherson


*Irwin Shubert: Irwin Shubert is a 19-year-old tall, bronzed boy, with curly black hair and sleepy black eyes. He has a mouth too lavish for his face. He is persistently bored and with a tendency to smile knowledgeably. He is an insider sworn to silence. He pushes Duddy to his limits.
*Jerry Dingleman - the Boy Wonder: 10 years ago he was a very poor, typical Jew living in Montreal. As the story goes, he collected street car transfers off the street and sold them “He’s up a quarter in 2 hours. Selling at 3 cents a piece." He didn’t donate the money to poor Jews, but instead he bet on horses and won. Over a period of time, he became rich through many business ventures and criminal activities. He rose from a poor boy to rich man. The Boy Wonder inspires Duddy.


*Hugh Thomas Calder: (Sandra’s Father) Calder hates Duddy's brother Lennie because Lennie performed an informal abortion on his daughter Sandra. Although he attempts to create a friendship with Duddy, but is turned away due to Duddy's unwillingness to set aside business. He is a millionaire who inherited, not earned, his money. Time Magazine called him “Bland, Brilliant Hugh Thomas Calder.”
*Mr. Samuel Cohen: He owns a scrap yard in Montreal. He is the first person to agree to buy a bar mitzvah film from Duddy.
*Herbert & Clara Shields: (Mr. MacPherson’s friends)A couple who are very wealthy from the pulp and paper business. Herbert went to school with John MacPherson. He makes fun of John for not making anything of himself.
*Mr. Rubin: (Linda’s father) He is the owner of “Hotel Lac Des Sables” in St. Agathes. He gets worried about the hotel; however, he does not worry about Duddy when he goes missing. Mr. Rubin is a greedy man who is concerned about his business and making money. His daughter, Linda, tricks Duddy out of money.

Major Themes


ee also

*Wainwright, J.A. "Neither Jekyll nor Hyde: In Defence of Duddy Kravitz." "Canadian Literature" 89 (1981): 56-73.
*McGregor, Grant. "Duddy Kravitz: From Apprentice to Legend." "Journal of Canadian Fiction" 30 (1980): 132-40.

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