by Mordecai Richler
In the novel The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, Mordecai Richler punishes Duddy for his wrongs against others in several ways. Each punishment fits the crime, and there is an irony about each one. The three punishments inflicted on Duddy at the end of the novel are the loss of Simchas love, the loss of his friends, and the absence of any funds to build on his property.
The loss of Simchas love is a devastating blow for Duddy. This is evident when Duddy confronts Yvette and asks her, Why did you go to my grandfather? Of all the people in the world, hes the only one (Richler, 1959, 313). Duddy did everything he could to get this land because his grandfather said that A man without land is nobody. Duddy, in his own mind, did it all for Simcha, to earn his love and respect and in the end, he had neither. The loss of Simchas love did not happen for nothing. It happened because of the way in which Duddy had gone about acquiring his land. Yvette told Simcha, and Simcha did not approve. He was, in fact, extremely disappointed with Duddy. His disappointment is shown when he tells Duddy,
I can see what you have planned for me, Duddel. Youll be good to me. Youd give me everything I wanted. and that would settle your conscience when you went out to swindle others. (Richler 1959, 312)
The betrayal of Yvette, her speaking to Simcha, and the loss of hers and Virgils friendships also punishes Duddy. They are the only two people in the world who ever loved him for himself, and didnt want anything but his love in return. In the loss of their friendships, Duddy is being punished for his rotten treatment of other people, even his only friends. Duddy may not even know what he has lost, but he will one day, when he misses having someone to share his accomplishments and failures with, like he has had up until now.
The loss of things human is not the only punishment inflicted on Duddy. He also ends up without money left to build anything on the land he has purchased. This is punishment for all the low down, underhanded things he had to do to get the money to buy the land. The irony of this is after doing everything imaginable to get his money, such as attempted blackmail, selling his uncle Benjys belongings, and stealing from Virgil, he still ends up with just an empty piece of land, and no capital to manage to do anything with it. This is a punishment to Duddy because he now has to put his dreams, the hotel and kids Camp, on hold for a while, maybe even forever.
Thus, Duddy has gotten his just reward for all the sins he has committed. Each one was with reason and hopefully he will eventually see the reasons and understand why things happened the way they did. Maybe he will even learn something in the process.