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    Mordecai Richler’s The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz Essay

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    Mordecai Richler’s The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz certainly provides a stark contrast to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. While Fitzgerald epitomizes descriptive writing techniques, Richler is far more reserved and subtle in terms of description when juxtaposed. However, both writers are able to successfully reveal the precarious journey of, essentially, the same character. Richler’s Duddy Kravitz and Fitzgerald’s Jay Gatsby, exemplifies the accomplishments that result from pursuing a dream. Kravitz obediently follows his grandfather’s advice: “A man without land is nobody” Richler, 49.

    Meanwhile, Gatsby follows his heart and pursues Daisy Buchanans’ unrequited love. While there are parallactic views on whether each character’s actions are inspiring or denouncing, the similarities between the two are blatantly obvious. The psychological structure of Kravitz essentially parallels that of Gatsby because both rise to prominence from meager existence, both attempt to conceal their inauspicious past, both pursue their goals through questionable means, and both base their entire existence on a dream which ultimately proves to be their downfall.

    A common past may partially be responsible for the close psychological similarities between Kravitz and Gatsby. During their initial portion of life, both characters were confronted with similar problems. Due to their impoverished state, both characters appeared bound to a lifetime of mediocrity. As Richler describes, “Where Duddy Kravitz sprung from the boys grew up dirty and sad, spiky also, like grass beside the railroad tracks. ” 45. Kravitz’s background is further exposed when he claims, “He’s a hack and he picks up extra money pimping.

    My father’s a pimp…That ought to be good for a laugh. My old man’s a lousy pimp. ” 105. Certainly, Kravitz was never brought up under ideal conditions, and neither was Gatsby, who encounters much of the same problems. “For over a year he had been beating his way along the south shore of Lake Superior as a clam-digger and a salmon fisher or in any other capacity that brought him food and bed. ” Fitzgerald, 95. Fitzgerald further reinforces this fact, “A young major just out of the army and covered with medals he got in the war.

    He was so hard up he had to keep wearing his uniform because he couldn’t buy some regular clothes…Start him! I made him… I raised him out of nothing, right out of the gutter. ” 162. Undoubtedly, both characters begin their journeys with similar challenges. While Kravitz desperately attempts to avoid a lifetime of “nothingness,” Gatsby struggles to overcome his status as a “poor boy, who can’t marry rich girls. ” In essence, poverty is the major contributing factor responsible for the irrepressible desire exemplified by Kravitz and Gatsby.

    Thus, it is vital that each character experience it. Since Kravitz and Gatsby are exposed to the same challenges during their childhood years, both are able to develop similar psychological characters. Thus, the resounding desire possessed by each as a result of poverty, proves that Kravitz and Gatsby possess the same psychological mindset. Kravitz and Gatsby have essentially created a mythological past to obscure their inauspicious backgrounds. Both characters demonstrate an overwhelming sense of arrogance, which partially forces them to conceal their backgrounds.

    Kravitz has created a fictional brother, who had, Run away to the States at fifteen, lied about his age, joined the air force, and sunk three Jap battleships in the Pacific. They were going to make a movie about his life, maybe. After the war Bradley rescued an Arizona millionaire’s beautiful daughter from drowning, married her, and bought a ranch. Richler, 12. Richler later reveals the falsehood of this statement: “Familiar with all of Bradley’s exploits the boys also suspected that he was a fictional character, but nobody dared accuse Duddy of lying. ” 12.

    In addition to creating a fictional past, Kravitz also greatly exaggerates his position in life. “He told her about his brother Bradley and that the Boy Wonder, an intimate of his father’s was willing to back him in any line he chose. ” Richler, 89. Much like Kravitz, Gatsby also creates a mythological past to conceal his mysterious background. I am the son of some wealthy people in the Middle West-all dead now. I was brought up in America but educated at Oxford, because all my ancestors have been educated there for many years. It is a family tradition. My family all died and I came into a good deal of money.

    After that I lived like a young Raja in all the capitals of Europe- Paris, Venice, Rome- collecting jewels, chiefly rubies, hunting big game, painting a little, things for myself only, and trying to forget something very sad that had happened to me long ago. ” Fitzgerald, 64. Partially fueled by their arrogance, both characters obscure their past in order to satisfy their conscience. As a result, it can be concluded that Kravitz and Gatsby hold the same vision of themselves. Both are unwilling, or unable to accept their past, and thus, feel obligated and entirely justified to create a self-molded image of themselves.

    Kravitz chooses to hide his background among the other boys at St Agathe, while Gatsby creates his past in order to rid himself of his previous status. Thus, because both characters create a mythological past, whose creation is fueled by similar factors, Kravitz and Gatsby share identical psychological characters. Kravitz and Gatsby use highly questionable, and at times, immoral means to obtain their goals. Kravitz’s struggle to avoid “nothingness,” and Gatsby’s hunt for the illusive “green light” compels them to perform questionable actions throughout their journeys.

    Kravitz was willing to lie, cheat, and swindle those closest to him. Yvette claims: I’ve seen you do lots of dishonest things, Duddy but never in my life did I expect you to cheat a boy like Virgil…I never thought you were such a bastard…Do you mean to say that knowing how grateful he’d be for a job-any job- you managed to swindle him out of his thousand dollars? Oh, Duddy. Richler, 253. Kravitz believes he is entirely justified in doing such things. It’s their fault, he thought, they wouldn’t help me, they’re forcing me into it.

    Pushing me, he thought, and he went into Virgil’s room. The check book wasn’t even hidden…He forged the signature by holding the cheques and a letter Virgil had signed up to the window and tracing slowly…I’ll wait for an hour, he thought, well three-quarters anyway, and if they show up before then I’ll tear up the cheque. If not-Well, they shouldn’t leave me alone for that long. Not in my desperate condition.

    Richler, 364. Kravitz’s philosophy to place his ambitions above all else is essentially equal to Gatsby’s belief of the “green light. Likewise, he uses dishonest schemes to achieve his wealth. She’s not leaving me! Certainly not for a common swindler who’d have to steal the ring he put on her finger…Who are you anyhow? You’re one of that bunch that hangs around Meyer Wolfshiem- that much I happen to know. I’ve made a little investigation into your affairs- and I’ll carry it further tomorrow…I found out what your “drug stores” were, He and this Wolfshiem bought up a lot of side-street drug stores here and in Chicago and sold grain alcohol over the counter. That’s one of his little stunts.

    I picked him for a bootlegger the first time I saw him, and I wasn’t too far off. Fitzgerald, 127. Gatsby does whatever is necessary in order to attain his love for Daisy. His extra marital relationship with her signifies to what extent he is willing to reach. Gatsby does not realize, nor does he care, about the eventual repercussions of such relationship, much like Kravitz’s disrespectful relationship with of Yvette and Virgil. Both Kravitz and Gatsby use dishonest and shortsighted means to achieve their goals. In addition, both are unable to realize the moral limits of attaining such goals.

    Therefore, Kravitz and Gatsby’s inability to realize the moral limits of pursuing their goals clearly reveals the psychological parallels of each character. The uncontrollable desire exemplified by Kravitz and Gatsby ultimately proves to be their downfall. Both fail to realize the importance of the things around them, and thus are unable to clearly differentiate between good and evil. Their uncontrollable desire has blinded them. Kravitz is unable to evaluate the seriousness of the statement: “A man without land is nobody” Richler, 49.

    Thus, he needlessly pursues a goal that is hypothetically preposterous. In the end, Kravitz is unable to distinguish good from evil, allies from foes. When Dingleman offers a proposal, “It’s going to cost you a fortune to develop this land…You’re going to need lots of money, Duddy. A fortune…Alone, you’ll never raise the money you need. With my help we could turn this into a model resort town in five years. ” Richler, 371. Kravitz is unable to see the seriousness in Dingleman. In addition, he also fails to realize the importance of Yvette and Virgil’s friendship.

    In the end, Kravitz looses his friendships, but most importantly, he looses Simcha’s faith. “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, 373. Therefore, Kravitz can be considered a failure because he is unable to control his overwhelming desire to avoid “nothingness. ” Gatsby, however, suffers a more tragic ending. Much like Kravitz, Gatsby based his entire existence on fulfilling his dream. He became infatuated by what he lacked, instead of what he possessed.

    This is evident when he finally gained his vast amounts of fortunes he so desired, yet, he still feels unfulfilled without Daisy. Thus, as Nick Carraway, the narrator of The Great Gatsby puts it, He had come along way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night. Fitzgerald, 171. Thus, Gatsby is unable to realize his accomplishments because the idea of continually pursuing his dream has essentially blinded him from reality.

    Therein lays the psychological parallel between Kravitz and Gatsby. Both base their entire existence on pursuing a dream, and it is the very essence-the desire that they possess, which eventually isolates them from reality. Kravitz is unable to realize the importance of Yvette and Virgil, much like Gatsby has failed to bask in his own glory. Both have envisioned a “perfect” life, but yet, lose what they have achieved. Thus, Kravitz and Gatsby’s parallel philosophy of placing dreams above all else proves to be their downfall, but more importantly, demonstrates their similar values and morals.

    The rise from meagre existence, the creation of a mythological past, the pursuing of a dream through questionable means, and basing an entire existence on a dream are all similar virtues possessed by Duddy Kravitz and Jay Gatsby. Thus, Kravitz and Gatsby can be considered the same characters on the same overall journey. However, there is an extreme sense of irony when observing Kravitz and Gatsby. Kravitz desires wealth, land, and social status, while failing to realize Yvette’s love for him. He is surrounded by people who care for him, and appreciate his qualities.

    Gatsby, however, has accomplished what Kravitz yearns, yet he lacks what Kravitz takes for granted: love. Thus, there certainly is a paradox about the belief that Kravitz and Gatsby are the same character. Both live two opposite lives, yearning for what the other takes for granted. Yet, their journeys are eerily similar. Perhaps Richler and Fitzgerald are not criticizing the idea of pursuing a dream. Perhaps they are revealing the fine equilibrium that must be reached in order to avoid destruction- a man without desire is a nobody, but a man without anyone to appreciate his desire is also a nobody.

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    Mordecai Richler’s The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz Essay. (2018, Apr 25). Retrieved from

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