Duddy Kravitz

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade November 2001

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What shapes our values, attitudes and goals? Most people would probably say our family and friends; however, family and friends are not the only ones who have an impact over our development. The environment that surrounds a human being plays an extremely important role in developing their character. Both physical environment and human influences play an extremely large part in the development of a human being. This is the case in Mordecai Richler's novel, "The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz." There are many ways how Mordecai Richler illustrates Duddy's character. Both his physical environment and many human influences that surround him shape him. This is exemplified by his influences outside the family (friends as well as businessmen), living on St. Urbain Street, and the influences within his family.

To begin with, Duddy spends most of his teen years with his good friends. Being that he spends so much time with these people, they play an extremely large part in his development.

One person who he spends a lot of time with is Yvette. She is a very good friend/girlfriend. Yvette has positive influence over Duddy's character, and how it changes. She knows how important it is to Duddy to get the land around the lake; so she does whatever she can to help him get the land. She really gives Duddy the motivation to go for his dreams; as well she gives him that extra little push to help his along the way. She helps him up when he is down and depressed. It is shown how Yvette motivates Duddy when, "Duddy started back through the woods as the sun began to sink and he stopped twice to rest and reflect on the long walk home. Yvette was waiting for him on the porch steps." This clearly shows how much Yvette cares for Duddy. It is evident that she has important information to give him; she could have waited till the next time she saw him or she could have waited to call him the next day, but she never. It is not said how late it is, or how long Yvette has been waiting for Duddy. However she is waiting and has some important news for him; she would have probably waited all night if she had to. This shows how she feels about Duddy and that she is willing to help him through everything and anything. She then continues, " The notary phoned me at the office the rest of the land has gone up for sale. There are two different owners and-." She is so excited about the news she had to go over to his house to tell him in person. This side of Yvette shows that she is a motivating person. She knows that Duddy will never have the money to develop it, but she still helps him. She knows that Duddy will have a lot of financial problems trying to develop the land but she doesn't focus on that, rather she focuses on his dream and the present time. She gives him the motivation that he needs to get through.

Another friend that Duddy spends a lot of time with is Virgil. Virgil as well has a positive influence over Duddy's development. Virgil is just one of the people Duddy uses to get money for his land. Duddy takes advantage of Virgil's physical disabilities. After selling the pinball machines that Virgil brought, 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. He then tells Virgil, that he can supply him with the perfect vehicle for one thousand dollars. Ironically this is the exact amount that he owes Virgil. Virgil is not aware of what Duddy is doing. 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 pay him. Virgil makes Duddy realize how important friends are, and that hurting a friend can hurt you badly. When Duddy first suggests that Virgil drive the truck for the business, Yvette does not agree with him. The reason being that she is frightened that he might have seizure while driving, and then have an accident. Duddy was not concerned about this, does not even think about it. All he cares about is the fact that they would have someone to drive the truck to St.Agathe; as well he wouldn't have to pay Virgil back. All Duddy cares about is himself and not others. Yvette feels that Duddy is responsible for this accident, since they had earlier discussed it and they both knew what could happen. Yvette makes Duddy feel guilty. She then leaves him and the business. We see how Duddy falls apart when, "Duddy woke with a shriek. He staggered out of bed, tripping over a pitcher and spilling stale orange juice on the floor. He sat down at the kitchen table and filled a bowl with corn flakes. He poured the milk with out realizing that it had curdled"¦ knocked over the bowl with his fist"¦. He stepped into the split orange juice and for hours afterwards in bed he couldn't get his toes unstuck." It is very clear that Duddy is feeling very guilty and bad for what he had done. Virgil therefore has a positive affect on Duddy's development because, he makes him realize that friends are important and he shouldn't treat them poorly.

Another gang of people who have had an influence over Duddy would be his businessmen. Two men who can be considered responsible for the change in Duddy's character are Cohen and Calder. These two men go into business with Duddy. Cohen is the 1st film client. He is also a Jewish high-class man; he offers Duddy a chance, however Duddy does not accept. Cohen is a man whom has a negative affect on Duddy. Cohen and Duddy has a conversation one night, which has a great impact on Duddy. This conversations starts with Cohen saying, "We're one of a kind, you know. Listen, listen here. My attitude even to my oldest and dearest customer is this' he said, making a throat cutting gesture. "˜If I thought he'd be good for half a cent or more a ton I'd squeeze it out of him. A plague on all the goyim, that's my motto. The more money I make the better care I take of my own"¦" Therefore Duddy learned some valuable information from Cohen. He learns that in order to succeed you must be mean and take advantage of people. Although it is wrong, you must take advantage to succeed. Calder as well is a businessman who Duddy spend a lot of time with. Duddy learns from Calder that there is more to friendship than just money. Duddy do not think of Calder as a friend, he thinks of him more as a businessman (one with money). However Calder thinks of Duddy as a friend, rather than a businessman. It is apparent when Duddy has a conversation with Calder concerning money. After Duddy asked Mr. Calder for some money he replies by saying, " "˜I suppose,' Mr. Calder said, pushing his plate away, "˜that I should have expected something like this from you. I had hoped we were friends." Calder was a good friend to Duddy, he really considered him a true friend. However Duddy doe not feel the same way. Duddy is only "friends" with Calder because if his money. Therefore Duddy has learned two very important lessons from the two businessmen. First of all, you must take advantage to get ahead, as well there is more to friendship than money.

Another business character, which has an important influence over Duddy, is the "Boy Wonder." Ever since Duddy was a young child, he was constantly told by his father to "Be like the Boy Wonder". The boy wonder was the town gossip. The Boy Wonder (Jerry Dingleman) causes the town to talk about him; they make his sound like a king. We see this when, " "˜He was broke,' Max began, "˜and hadn't even made his name yet. He was just another bum at the time.'"¦ "˜Anyway, he's broke, like I said. So he walks up to the corner of Park and St. Joseph and hangs around the street stop for a couple of hours, and do you know what?'"¦ "˜All that time' Max said, "˜he's collecting streetcar transfers off the street and selling them"¦'" Eventually Jerry became a rich kid from St. Urbain Street. This is a very big deal; since everyone who lives on St. Urbain Street is poor, and do not normally make it very far in life. Because this guy is so popular, Duddy wants to be just like him, since he is such a "˜good guy'. However when Duddy is introduced to him he is very disappointed. When Duddy is asked to accompany The Boy Wonder to New York, he immediately accepts. As well when Dingleman requested that he take a suitcase across the boarder for him, and pretend they do not know each other, he accepted without delay. However Duddy did not realize why it was so important that they do this, until he, "took a look at the headline and whistled. DIGLEMAN LINKED WITH DOPE SMUGGLING" Later after putting two and two together he realizes what Dingleman did to him. Duddy then did not feel so good about this "˜Boy Wonder'. He feels that he has been used. Duddy no longer thinks that Boy wonder is a wonder. He dose not respect and admire him as he did earlier.

As well at human influences, physical environment plays a huge role in developing a character. Duddy's physical environment certainly plays a huge role in developing his character; if he had lived in a place other than Montreal he would be a totally different person. Because Duddy lived in Montreal, on St. Urbain Street he was brought up believing that he had to grow up, and get out of that place. Mainly he was told to move out of that poor street, and become a "˜BOY WONDER'. Duddy was brought up in a poor neighbourhood. His family was extremely poor, for money Duddy's father, Max; drove a taxi and was a part time pimp. Obviously they didn't have a lot of money coming in each week. Since the family is so poor Duddy is forced to, steal, cheat, and a little more positively he has a number of part time jobs. While attending school ""¦Duddy met many boys who came from families that were much better off than his own and on the least pretext he fought with them. Those who were too big to beat up he tried to be friendly with. He taught them to steal at Kresge's and split streetcar tickets so that one could be used twice"¦" Duddy was a bad boy. Learning to spilt a ticket in to two, so that one could be used twice. Where did he get an idea like this? The reason why he learned to do this is probably because he probably couldn't afford to go many times. So he then thought up a way of getting in without paying.

Another physical surrounding that affected Duddy's character would be Duddy's family. Duddy lives in a poor Jewish Ghetto, where he lives with his father. Duddy has lived a life motherless, with only a father, whom is a part time pimp. Duddy is encircled with an uncomfortable environment. Being that Duddy is mother less, it has affected him. It has made him have low self esteem, Furthermore, Duddy gets an amount of pressure put on him from his family. Duddy is affected buy his Uncle Benjy. Duddy has an unusual relationship with his Uncle Benjy. Duddy did not have the same kind of affection and devotion that Lennie and Benjy had. Benjy did not have many good thoughts about Duddy, he describes him as a "thin crafty face, the quick black eyes and the restlessness...the grain so shrewd and knowing, all made a bad impression on Uncle Benjy." Duddy and his Uncle never got along, ever since Duddy caught someone at their factory stealing. Duddy was accused of lying, and ever since then they did not have a good relationship. One thing, which caused a bit of an uproar, would be the fact that Benjy supported Lennie, giving him money for his education. Whereas he never gave Duddy any money, since Duddy was the only one in his family (both his and Ida's family). However after Duddy has a conversation with his uncle, they come to reasoning. Uncle Benjy realizes he was not fair to Duddy and says he is sorry, ""¦I wasn't good to you, it's true. I never took time. I think I didn't like you because you're a throwback, Duddle. I'd look at you and remember my own day as a hunger salesman in the mountains and how I struggled for my first little factory. I'd look at you and see a busy, conniving little yid, and I was wrong because there was more, much more"¦. Every year of my life I have looked back on the man I was the year before-the things I did and said "“and I was ashamed"¦." Duddy's Uncle Benjy there for has a tremendous impact on Duddy's development.

As well Lennie has had an impact on his brother. Lennie was supposed to be the smart child who was attending Medical School. However Lennie was not the perfect child like he was supposed to be. Lennie had problems, many problems. Lennie many have been able to apply math and sciences, however he was not a sociable child. He had a problem with his social skills. Due to the fact that Lennie is not a sociable person, he begins to drink. When Lennie is drunk, or under the influence of alcohol he can be more sociable and can talk with people. Lennie comes home drunk one night and confesses to Duddy that, " "˜I've fallen behind in my studies'". Lennie is very upset and scared his Uncle Benjy (whom is paying for his education) will be angry with him. Again later Lennie has more problems. The problem this time concerns the fact that he might be kicked out of med school. News told everyone that Lennie has disappeared, Duddy eventually found out that he had ran away. When Duddy got there he found out that, "Irwin had told Lennie that Sandra was pregnant, that much was true, and he had asked Lennie if he would perform the abortion." Lennie was terrified, and did not want to do it, though it did, he only partly did it though. Duddy to the rescue ended up speaking with Mr. Cohen and resolved everything, and Lennie was not kicked out of med school.

Lastly, the final people who have had the most impact on Duddy would be Simcha and Max. To begin with Simcha, this is Duddy's grandfather. When Duddy was small, Simcha spoke those unforgettable words to him, "A man without land is nobody. Duddy has always looked up to his grand father; similarly Simcha has always thought the best of Duddy. When it seemed as if nobody cared or respected him, Simcha did. With the exception of Simcha, Duddy had no other parental support, which is the reason why Simcha words had such a great effect on him. Simcha always believe in Duddy, however when he finds out (from Yvette) what Duddy was done to get the money for the land, their relationship is destroyed. ""¦You'd give me everything I wanted. And that would settle your conscience when you went out to swindle others." Simcha believed in him but now looks at him in shame for he knows the respect he will gain is shallow. The strangers who respect Duddy will look at his money, not at his heart. They will not realize what Duddy has done to become rich and have so much land. To Simcha, money is not everything. He has lived a life based on respect but for character, not riches. Simcha's words have impacted Duddy's life but not in the way he wanted, never wanted this to happen to Duddy, not in his darkest nightmares. There is no more respect towards Duddy in Simcha's eyes but in this twisted world, respect from the overall public. Duddy realizes that his grand father disapproves of his actions but the end, he does not care, he thinks everything will be all right. This is the kind of person Duddy has turned out to be, someone who does not understand what is right from wrong. His conscience feels nothing, not even for the person who truly supported him from the start. If this is how his mind works for someone he loves, it frightening to think how his treats someone he hates. Simcha's ironic words gained Duddy land but made him a heartless criminal. Therefore we can say that Simcha has changed Duddy in a positive way as well as a negative way. Positive, because he works hard and does what his grand father tells him, negatively because he had become a lying cheating person.

Finally, Duddy's father Max has an influence over him. Duddy does not have a real good relationship with his father. It always seems as through Max loves Lennie more than he loves Duddy. When Duddy comes back from work at, he asks his father, "Why didn't you answer any of my letters?" He replies he wasn't "one for letters." This really upset Duddy since, he remembered that, " "¦ when Lennie had worked as a camp counsellor one summer his father had written every week. He had driven out to visit him twice." This upset Duddy, knowing that his father would write his brother but not him, let alone going to visit him.

All in all, It is very apparent that Duddy has been influenced by both the physical environment surrounding him as well as the human influences. At the end of the novel we can see that Duddy has lost his innocence. No longer is he the pure and naïve boy as before, but now a corrupt, immoral man. Duddy has chosen a life without conscience or goodness, beginning a life with no morals and corrupt "friends." He does not think twice to people he has hurt which displays the deterioration of his character. He has traded morality for destructive materialistic values.