In The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, we see Duddy set himself up for a great
downfall. We all know that every one must pursue their dreams, because without dreams
there would be no reason to live. Duddy understands this perfectly, that is why he is very
ambitious. From the moment he hears his grandfather say, “A man without land is
nobody. Remember that, Duddel.”(Richler 49) Ever since those words were said Duddy
prepared himself to seek the land of his dreams, no matter what the cost would be.
Duddy is a relentless pursuer; a fierce competitor and also a good manipulator. At the
end of the novel he does end up getting his land, but he is only successful because of his
immoral and despicable means. Therefore Duddy has failed his apprenticeship and has
become the “scheming little bastard”(280) that Uncle Benjy has warned him about. There
is no doubt that Duddy is a very sharp and intelligent, but it is his lack of moral principles
that attributes to his final failure.
His immorality can be traced back to his early childhood. While he was in
parochial school, he earns money through his scheming ways. He liked to take advantage
of the fact that minors cannot be sued in Canada. Duddy defrauds stamp companies and
sells stolen hockey sticks from the Montreal Canadians N.H.L. hockey team. But after
these acts he emerges himself into a deeper sea of corruption when he opens up Dudley
Kane Enterprises. With his limited knowledge of movie making and his trust in John
Friar, his firm produces bar-mitzvah films of extremely poor quality. The bar-mitzvah
for Mr. Cohen, for example, is obviously a failing product. “Duddy didn’t say a word all
through the screening but afterwards he was sick to his stomach.”(148) After the
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screening, Duddy says to Mr. Friar, “I could sell Mr. Cohen a dead horse easier than this
pile of --.”(148) However, realizing the obvious bad job, Duddy does not tell his clients
the truth. Instead he tells his clients that the film is a phenomenal piece of art and he is
entering it into the Cannes Film Festival. “It’s great. (the film) We’re going to enter it in
the Cannes Festival.”(149) By doing so he deceives the Cohen family into buying the
defective bar-mitzvah film of their son Bernie.
As a matter of fact, Duddy is not only very skillful in handling situations, but he
also finds it very easy to manipulate people. This can be clearly seen in his relationships
with Virgil and Yvette. Duddy was never loved in his family, so he is very happy to know
that there is someone (Yvette) that cares about him. He finds a great friend in her and
they engage in intimacy. But as time passes by, Yvette becomes only a tool for him. He
uses her so that he can by the land that he lusts for. He uses her because he is a minor and
cannot legally own land. “The farmers would be wary of a young Jew, they might jack up
the prices or even refuse to sell, but another French-Canadian would not be suspect.(100)
He also uses Yvette as a sexual toy and makes love to her whenever he wants it, but does
not take her feelings into consideration. “Yvette wanted to wait, but Duddy insisted, and
they made love on the carpet.”(191) Yvette love Duddy and wants to marry him, on the
other hand Duddy thinks that marriage is revolting. “Imagine guys getting married and
tying themselves down to one single broad for a whole lifetime when there’s so much
stuff around.”(191) Duddy really does not know how to treat a woman.
With Virgil on the other hand, Duddy takes advantage of his physical disabilities.
After selling a pinball machine that Virgil bought him to ease financial troubles, Duddy
does not want to repay him. So Duddy uses the fact that Virgil is an epileptic and it is
very difficult for him to be hired, Duddy employs him as a driver. But there is a catch,
Duddy tells him that a truck would be necessary for the task. Duddy tells Virgil that he
has the perfect vehicle for one thousand dollars. Coincidentally the exact amount that he
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owes Virgil. But one thing is that Virgil is innocent enough not to know what is going on
and trusts Duddy. This is just another one of Duddy’s schemes so that he does not need to
reimburse Virgil.
After Duddy has