A successful novelist integrates the element of conflict into his story. Mordecai Richler?s The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz clearly depicts the different forms of conflict a young man coming of age in Montreal during the 1950?s would have faced. Duddy Kravitz is ever battling with the prejudice present in society, economic status, and the many hindrances of family.
Through out his journey, Duddy Kravitz encounters great obstacles of prejudice. One of his first dealings with this phenomenon begins with the discovery of land in Ste. Agathe. Duddy uses Yvette to obtain this territory, as few French Canadians would sell to a Jew. This discrimination appears again later in the novel, but in this instance serves to Duddy?s advantage. This point is made evident with Yvette?s remark, ?One of the farmers?well he hates Jews. He?d prefer to sell to me? (p.252). Because of this ignorant?s racism, Duddy is able to purchase the remainder of the land, but racism is not the only form of prejudice found in The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. After returning from his summer up north, Duddy applies for a job as a television dealer and the representative of the firm ?told Duddy that he was too young and advised him to try for something smaller? (p.113). This same bias of age is also hurtful to Duddy?s goal when Mr. Cohen has to be cajoled into letting DIAL MOVIES film his son?s barmitzvah, because Cohen does not have faith in the young producer?s maturity and ability to successfully finish such a complex job. Clearly, the society of the Kravitz family is littered with prejudice, especially where the youngest member is concerned.
Duddy is perpetually in conflict with his economic status. In some cases, Duddy worked harder than was good for his health, ?the morning his fever had gone he began to size things up? (p.113). When first beginning his mission to possess the land surrounding Lac St. Pierre, Duddy works day and night: ?While Max slept Duddy drove?and during the day he got a job selling liquid soap and toilet supplies to factories? (p.113). At other times Duddy puts his need for a dollar above his morals, such as when he smuggles drugs over the American border for a nominal amount of Dingleman?s money. Sadly, even the love and acceptance of a friend is less important to him than the money he needs. Virgil, an honest and loyal companion, loses his life savings when he is unable to lend Duddy money: ?I can?t, Virgil screamed so loud and sudden that Duddy started? (p.306). Frustrated, the protagonist forges his ?buddy?’s (p.304) signature, taking advantage of Virgil?s condition and his trust. Duddy?s conflicts inspired by poverty are rivaled only by his family conflicts in importance, and obviously portray the difficulty a man such as the main character would have faced when on the path from rags to riches.
The Kravitz family was not a help to Duddy during his apprenticeship, more a hindrance. Max does not support his son in the least. When his youngest tries to borrow money from him, Max only agrees due to Lennie?s support and the Boy Wonder?s competition. So astounded is Duddy by the lending of this money that when his father asks how much money, ?Duddy gasped, ?Are you kidding??? (p.297). Another weakness of Max?s during the course of the book, is that he is disapproving of Duddy?s relationship of Yvette because she is gentile. Lennie, though not seriously hurtful to Duddy?s dream, can not be considered helpful, as he pulls Duddy away from first success to engage in a missing person?s hunt. Most importantly, Simcha Kravitz tells Duddy ?a man without land is nothing? (p.49) and with this expression, Zeyda begins what will continue to be a burning desire to own land and not be a nobody on Duddy?s part. Although family as a whole hinders the protagonist?s plans, clearly it is Simcha?s impressing of his own dream on the young lad that is most damaging to Duddy?s growing up. Also this immigrant?s dream is the cause behind many of the significant conflicts because he is always fighting over the land he hopes to own.
Clearly, when looking at the many different hurdles Duddy must overcome, such as prejudice, poverty and lastly family problems, one must conclude that The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz effectively portrays the forms of conflict any boy in Duddy?s position would have faced. Looking at all the factors that dragged Duddy down, one must wonder, were his actions truly his fault or were they beyond his control?