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Satire in “The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz”

The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz is a satirical novel written by Canadian writer Mordecai Richler, which describes Duddy Kravitz’s life. The main character, a Jew from Montreal, Quebec, tries his best to become rich, not paying attention to all the sacrifices made for this purpose. The author of the novel widely uses such a literary technique as satire in the text. Through it, human nature and society are ridiculed and criticized (What Is Satire?). Richler uses satire to describe the main character’s pursuit of wealth, indicate changes in his motives along the way, as well as represent the minorities living in Quebec.

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The satire in the book is marked by the use of several techniques inherent in it. Running for wealth to become a representative person leads the protagonist to loneliness. His motives, in turn, are initially represented by the desire to help his grandfather. In the end, they turn only into a thirst for profit and lead to the disappointment of the grandfather. As a satire technique, the irony manifests itself in contrast between what is desired and what is achieved. At the same time, the researchers note the author’s condescending attitude towards Duddy Kravitz (Myers 50; Brunwald 64). As a result, an extensive satire is pronounced in the description of other heroes, in particular representatives of minorities, through hyperbole, allegories, and other techniques. Thus, the novel is simultaneously funny and raises severe moral topics.

Gaining wealth and owning land as a sign of a successful person becomes the protagonist’s obsessions and leads to the loss of the good that still presents in his life. Simcha Kravitz, Duddy’s grandfather, once told his grandson, “A man without land is nobody. Remember that, Duddel” (Richler 24). The phrase itself is already ironic since the Kravitz family are Jews, representatives of the people who are looking for their homeland for a long time. Grandfather’s instruction greatly impresses the young protagonist and turns into a goal of life. However, the acquisition of wealth is marked by severe ruthlessness and dishonest misconduct. Moreover, wealth does not bring happiness, and in the end, Duddy’s only friends leave him: “But she [Yvette, girlfriend] turned away from him” (Richler 184). Even having a cherished piece of land, the character does not become a successful person.

Since the grandfather inspired Duddy to become a respected person with land and money, the main character wants not to fail and provide the old man with a decent farm. Such motives are commendable – the pride of relatives and help to them are worth serious efforts. However, Duddy Kravitz gradually departs from his intentions and forgets them. His plans are becoming more insidious, cunning, and dishonest. For example, Virgil Roseboro is a loyal friend of Duddy, becomes his employee, despite epilepsy. The protagonist, knowing about the problem, ignores it, and as a result, Virgil gets into an accident and is seriously injured. Simcha learns about this and says: “I can see what you have planned for me, Duddel. You’ll be good to me. You’d give me everything I wanted. And that would settle your conscience when you went out to swindle others” (Richler 182). He is disappointed and refuses to accept the care from his grandson received at such a cost.

Despite all the irony that happens with Duddy Kravitz, the author makes little fun of him, focusing on other characters. For example, next to the toxic protagonist, his beloved Yvette is represented as a too simple French-Canadian girl (Myers 50). However, she develops as a person and is able to fight back Duddy. Throughout the novel, the Jewish people’s achievements and other minorities are significantly belittled, Zionism is satirically presented (Brunwald 56). Moreover, the efforts of suppressed groups to achieve respect are exaggerated. A striking example is the magazine “The Crusader,” written and “published by Epileptics for Epileptics,” which is parody representation of minorities requiring special rights (Brunwald 55). Such a satirical perspective of groups, particularly the Jewish community, contributes to a realistic view of how to be an emigrant, what must be done to fit into a new society.

Thus, in Mordecai Richler’s novel The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, satirical techniques were used to condemn the protagonist’s actions and their causes, as well as to draw attention to minorities paradoxically. The main character Duddy Kravitz becomes a hostage to his grandfather’s instructions, turning them into a race using any means to achieve the goal. He wants to become a representative person, having gained land and wealth, but they do not bring him the desired happiness. Moreover, actions lead to the disappointment of a person whom he wants to please more than others – grandfather. The irony of the results recalls that money is not the main thing in life, and it is essential not to lose self. The novel also seriously diminishes the influence of Jews in the formation of communities in Canada. Moreover, the activities of minorities to obtain their rights are parodically exaggerated. The book is an example of satire’s use to draw attention to moral problems that need to be solved.

Works Cited

Brunwald, Jason. Jewish Writers of Montreal as Innovators in The Canadian Satirical Tradition: A Study of a Selection of Novels by Mordecai Richler and William Weintraub. 2010. Université Laval, Thesis. Corpus, Web.

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Myers, David. “Mordecai Richler as Satirist.” ARIEL: A Review of International English Literature vol. 4, no. 1, 1973, pp. 47-61.

Richler, Mordecai. The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. Gallery Books, 1999.

“What Is Satire? How to Use Satire in Literature, Pop Culture, and Politics—Plus Tips on Using Satire in Writing.” Master Class, 2020. Web.

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