The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz by Mordecai Richler

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Summary

The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz is the story of a young Jewish man from Montreal who learns lessons in life from a series of people who serve as his mentors. As their apprentice, he is given the opportunity to observe their lives and learn from them, and as he does, he carves a course for a life he believes will bring him power and money.

The story begins when Duddy is a boy living in poverty and struggling to find his identity in a world where he feels out of place. He loses his mother, endures rejection in high school, dabbles in petty crime, and then sets on a course to obtain honest work and make the money he needs to buy land, as he believes land ownership to be the key to power. Eventually, Duddy sets his sights on lakefront property in Quebec he plans to develop into a resort, and he works in a variety of positions to make the money he needs to achieve his goal. However, he encounters resistance from his mentors. Duddy works for his Uncle Benji, a clothing manufacturer, and then as a waiter in a hotel. Later, he starts a film production company. In each job, his mentors fail to support him and attempt to quash his ambitions. Duddy fails in his career, loses his girlfriend, and suffers a nervous breakdown before he resorts to criminal actions to buy the land he desires. By the end of the story, Duddy has disgraced his family and is destitute, but he denies the reality of his situation. Because he has land, he considers himself a success—despite the fact that he lost his dream, his friends and family, and everything he worked to achieve.

Summary

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz is the story of an ambitious Jewish boy growing up in a poor neighborhood in Montreal. It is both a portrait of a young man who is desperately determined to be successful and of the various communities he has to deal with in his quest: working-class Jewish, Jewish establishment, French Canadian, and Anglo-Saxon. The novel opens in 1947, while Duddy is still in high school. He creates havoc throughout his neighborhood, tormenting various people who have offended or insulted him.

A series of vignettes introduces Duddy’s family and neighborhood. Although Duddy loves his family, he often feels inferior to his brother, Lennie, who is struggling through medical school. His father, Max, frequently ignores Duddy’s feelings in order to focus on Lennie, the successful sibling. Max’s brother, Benjy, feels the same. While he sends Lennie through medical school, he shows disdain for Duddy. The one member of the family who feels real affection for Duddy is his grandfather, Simcha. He is the one who persuades Duddy that a man must have land in order to be successful.

The summer after Duddy is graduated from high school, he works as a waiter in a resort in the Laurentian mountains. The rest of the staff are college students who either mock or ignore him. One of them, Irwin Shubert, the son of a prominent attorney, continually harasses Duddy. At the summer’s end, he sets Duddy up...

(The entire section is 1,171 words.)