The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz gives a rich portrayal of a wide range of characters who populated Montreal during the period immediately after World War II. Although it concentrates on the working-class Jewish community, Richler’s work is filled with many insights into other groups as well. The novel’s episodic structure and abundance of characters create an amazingly vivid portrait of a time and place. Even his minor characters stand out, presenting vivid social and satiric commentary. This rich mix of detail mirrors the complexity of real life.
Richler very dispassionately presents both the positive and negative aspects of his characters. Nowhere is this seen more clearly than in Richler’s development of his protagonist. The first section of the novel presents Duddy as a rather unpleasant troublemaker. Gradually, however, he gathers the reader’s sympathy when his search for his father’s approval meets with dismissal and indifference. His humiliation at the hands of the upper-class waiters at the resort increases the reader’s understanding. However, this scene is followed immediately by his shabby rejection of Yvette. Ironically, throughout the novel, Duddy works very hard to win the love of his family, never completely succeeding. In these relationships, he is strong and loving. However, he ignores and then brutally betrays the two people who do love him, Virgil and Yvette, in much the same dismissive manner as he is treated by...
(The entire section is 462 words.)