ll Of DuddyA man must pursue his dreams. This is certainly true for everyone of
the humankind, for if there were no dreams, there would be no reason to
live. Duddy Kravitz understands this perfectly, that is why he is one
of the most ambitious young men of his time. From the moment he hears
his grandfather says, “A man without land is nobody,” he is prepared to
seek the land of his dream — no matter what the cost would be. This
ambition of his is very respectable, but unfortunately his methods are
damnable. Duddy is a relentless pursuer; a formidable competitor and
also a ruthless manipulator. It is true that he has obtained all the
land that he desires at the end, but he succeeds through immoral,
despicable and contemptible means. It is clear then, that Duddy has
failed in his apprenticeship and has become the “scheming little
bastard” that Uncle Benjy has warned him against.
There is no doubt that Duddy is very shrewd and clever, but his lack of
moral principles attributes to his final failure. In fact, his
immorality can be traced back to a very young age. During his study in
the parochial school, he already earns money through methods that hardly
comply to virtues of any kind. Taking advantage of the fact that minors
cannot be sued in Canada, Duddy defrauds stamp companies and sells
stolen hockey sticks. Perhaps he cannot distinguish right from wrong;
perhaps he does not care, but nonetheless it is not proper for him to
engage himself into these kinds of activities.
Duddy emerges himself deeper into the sea of corruption when he
establishes Dudley Kane Enterprises. With his limited knowledge of
movie making and his mistaken trust in John Friar, his firm produces
bar-mitzvah films of extremely poor quality. The bar-mitzvah film 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.” After the screening, Duddy says to Mr. Friar, “I could sell
Mr. Cohen a dead horse easier than this pile of –.” However,
realizing the obvious faultiness of the film, Duddy does not talk
candidly to his client. Instead, he untruthfully says that the film is
a phenomenal piece of art and that he is entering it into the Cannes
Festival. By doing so, he deceives the Cohen family into buying the
defective bar-mitzvah film of Bernie.
As a matter of fact, Kravitz is not only skillful in handling
situations, but he is also very apt in manipulating people. This can be
clearly seen in his relationships with Virgil and Yvette.
Duddy is never loved in his family, so originally Duddy is quite
content to know that there is someone who cares about him — Yvette. He
finds great comradeship in her and has also enjoyed great sex with her.
But as time passes by, Yvette becomes only a tool to him. He uses her
as a medium through which he can buy the land that he lusts for; because
he is a minor and he cannot legally own land. “The farmers would be
wary of a young Jew, they might jack up prices or even refuse to sell,
but another French-Canadian would not be suspect.” Duddy also treats
her as a sexual toy. He makes love with Yvette whenever he wants it,
but he does not take Yvette’s feelings into consideration: “Yvette
wanted to wait, but Duddy insisted, and they made love on the carpet.”
He never pays any respect to Yvette and he does “…not know how to
treat a woman.”
With Virgil, Duddy takes advantage of his physical disabilities. After
selling the pinball machines that Virgil brought him to ease his
financial troubles, Duddy does not want to repay Virgil. Using the fact
that Virgil is an epileptic and that it is very difficult for him to be
hired, Duddy employs him as a driver. But Duddy tells him that a truck
would be necessary for the task, and that he can provide Virgil with the
perfect vehicle for one thousand dollars — the exact amount that he
owes Virgil. Virgil is innocent enough not to know what is happening.
He is also very grateful and flattered to know that Mr. Kravitz is
willing to hire him. He accepts the job immediately, and thus, Duddy
does not need to reimburse Virgil. It is quite ironic that Duddy, being
such a good manipulator of people, is later being used by his Bohemian
friends when they come to his apartment every night to party, eat and
drink — all to Duddy’s expense.
After Duddy has engaged himself into all kinds of deceitful activities,
he bankrupts and is on the verge of a mental breakdown. At that point,
Uncle Benjy’s letter reveals to Duddy that he must make a very serious
There’s more to you than mere money-lust, Duddy, but I’m afraid for
you. You’re two people, that’s why. The scheming little bastard I saw
so easily and the fine, intelligent boy underneath that your grand
father, bless him, saw. But you’re coming of age soon and you’ll have
to choose. A boy can be two, three, four potential people, but a man is
only one. He murders the others.
Duddy must now choose to the way that he will live on for the rest of
his life. He may continue on to live the way that he has always lived
and be a complete amoral criminal, or he can abandon his money-lusting
and become a fine shrewd gentleman. The time has come for him to choose
what is to become of himself. But at this point, Duddy performs the
most dirty, sickening and contemptible act in his apprenticeship. He
forges Virgil’s cheque in order to buy the final parcel of land: “Duddy
took a quick look at Virgil’s bank balance, whistled, noted his account
number and ripped out two cheques. He forged the signature by holding
the cheque and a letter Virgil had signed up to the window and tracing
slowly.” This is a clear indication that Duddy has chosen to become
the inconsiderate “scheming little bastard”. He has murdered all the
other good possibilities of himself.
Duddy has obviously chosen the wrong kind of man to be. He has chosen
to become a crooked person, a corrupted chap, and a ruthless man.
Undoubtedly, Duddy is a very keen and intuitive young man. He can
calmly and gracefully settle Lennie’s problems with Mr. Calder. He can
also tactfully and intelligently get Aunt Ida going back to Montreal to
see the dying Uncle Benjy. Duddy has all the qualities that is needed
for him to succeed in society — it is only a matter of time.
Unfortunately, Duddy chooses the wrong path at a young age and continues
on with that path to his adulthood. He ends up to be a terrible
failure. Perhaps his lack of discipline from his early years is one of
the most important attributes to his tragic fall in The Apprenticeship
of Duddy Kravitz.