The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz Essay - Critical Context (Masterplots II: British and Commonwealth Fiction Series)

Mordecai Richler

Critical Context (Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Richler’s first three novels were either ignored or received tepid reviews, but The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz was a breakthrough novel. As Bruce W. Powe puts it, “Richler’s first important novel is his fourth, The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz.” It established Richler’s reputation, was made into a successful film, and set off a critical debate over the amount of sympathy or antipathy one should have for Duddy Kravitz. For example, J. A. Wainwright suggests that one must look at both the good and bad elements in Duddy’s character in his article “Neither Jekyll nor Hyde.”

Even though Richler is an iconoclast who satirizes Canadian, British, and American mores equally, he is a traditional novelist when one considers form. The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz is both a Bildungsroman and a quest novel; Richler does not alter the form in the manner of Saul Bellow. While Richler does use some of the characters or situations that American Jewish novelists such as Bellow or Bernard Malamud have used, he concentrates more on making judgments about character than on introducing or discussing ideas in the manner of the American novelists. As Powe states, “Richler is too street-wise to be that intellectual.”