Mordecai Richler, as a Jewish-Quebecer-Canadian, was a member of a despised minority, living in a province alienated from and marginalized within the dominant national culture, in a country forever looking enviously, anxiously over its shoulder at its more illustrious, more powerful neighbour. As a writer and satirist, however, this triple whammy was a blessing rather than a curse. This article explores some of the ways in which Mordecai Richler’s status as a member of three different stigmatized groups provided material for the self-deprecating humour that characterizes his work. I argue that Richler’s trebly-displaced protagonists, exemplified by Jake Hersh, tend to turn their comedy inward, punishing themselves for their perceived inferiority both to ‘other interlopers’ and to the (non-Canadian) arbiters of culture. In contrast, I suggest that Duddy Kravitz is Richler’s greatest creation because he both embodies and transcends the comic stereotype of the Jew on the make, exploiting but finally rejecting the masochism and internalized anti-Semitism of his relatives and his peers.
Please note that works on the Canadian Literature website may not be the final versions as they appear in the journal, as additional editing may take place between the web and print versions. If you are quoting reviews, articles, and/or poems from the Canadian Literature website, please indicate the date of access.