Duddy And Claudius Essay, Research Paper
Throughout Mordecai Richler’s The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, the protagonist, Duddy Kravitz, can be seen as a mean-spirited opportunist who would step on anyone to get where he wants. Duddy, at times, seems to be oblivious to the people he hurts in his ambitious quest for money and power, ultimately leaving him unhappy and alone. Even though his methods of gaining control are far more extreme, the same can be said of Claudius from William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, who ends up losing far more than Duddy in his pursuit of wealth. It seems, if one compares these two characters, they both sacrificed happiness for riches, destroying their lives.In both character’s ambitious race for fortune, each of them has taken a life, marring both of their existences with guilty memories. Through his pranks as a boy, Duddy inadvertently caused the death of Mr. MacPherson’s wife, sending Duddy’s former teacher into a spiral of alcoholism. Though the enormity of his actions never truly hit Duddy, it is always in the back of his mind. After a meeting with Calder, Duddy goes to his office and begins to glance over some photos Yvette took of the lake. He then goes “to a bar around the corner” and begins to wonder “if- objectively speaking- I could be blamed for the death of MacPherson’s wife? I never even met her.” (Richler 306). He is obviously reminded of MacPherson and his drinking by going to a bar. Claudius is also responsible for a death, but it is in no way inadvertent. He poured poison in his brother’s ear in order to obtain the crown of Denmark. The reader can tell this never leaves Claudius’ mind, as he constantly refers to sickness, poison, and ears. However, he makes his greatest show of guilt when he admits to himself that his offense is rank, it smells to heaven; It hath the primal eldest curse upon’t, A brother’s murder. Pray can I not, Though inclination be as sharp as will. (Shakespeare III iii 36-39)The two characters from each story have both lost women very dear to them through their determined hunt for riches by somehow pushing them away. Duddy lost Yvette through his regular neglect of her feelings. He constantly used her as a business asset, making her finalize land deals because of her non-Jewish roots. Only after Virgil’s accident does Yvette truly see how Duddy uses his friends. Duddy, in a desperate act to hold on to Yvette like a possession, asks “Would you like to marry me?”. Yvette replies:
“Are you beginning to worry that the deeds are in my name?” Duddy slapped her hard across the face. “Get out of here,” he shouted. (Richler 292)On the other hand, Claudius from Hamlet, realizes he has lost the woman in his life, and tries to push her away. Claudius, after Queen Gertrude has told him of Polonius’ murder at the hands of Hamlet, says to his wife “His liberty is full of threats to all, To you yourself, to us to every one.” (Shakespeare IV i 14-15). Claudius uses the word “you”, a very formal address, to Gertrude in an attempt to detach himself from his wife in the wake of the events initiated by her son, Hamlet. Claudius might have realized that he loves his recent bride less than he loves himself.Of all the comparable aspects of the two stories, the best friends of both characters and the paths they are forced to travel are the most similar. However, “best friends” is not a very precise analogy, since Virgil from The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz and Polonius from Hamlet are seen more as servants, or loyal dogs. Virgil is truly devoted to Duddy, even though Duddy mistreats him at any chance he has. Even after Virgil has his crippling accident which is clearly Duddy’s fault, Yvette tells Duddy “He asks about you every day. He thinks you’re angry he smashed up the truck and that’s why you won’t come.” (Richler 293). Even after this tragic event that ate Duddy with guilt, he still stole money from a chair-bound Virgil. Polonius is just as devoted to Claudius as Virgil is to Duddy. He goes along with any scheme the king has for discovering Hamlet’s plans. He even goes so far as to use his own daughter, Ophelia, as bait to determine Hamlet’s intentions. After Polonius’ death at the hands of Hamlet, even though Claudius still attempts to get rid of his adopted son, he shows some guilt when he tells Hamlet this deed, for thine especial safety, which we do tender as we dearly grieve for that which thou hast done, must send thee hence with fiery quickness. (Shakespeare IV iii 37-40)Although each character from The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz and Hamlet have very different conclusions to their respective stories, the journeys that brought them there were quite similar. Perhaps, if Duddy had gone to the extremes that Claudius had in his selfish journey toward money, he too would have ended up dead.