Hubert Selby Jr.'s Requiem for a Dream

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Hubert Selby Jr.'s Requiem for a Dream

In Selby's 1978 novel Requiem for a Dream each character succumbs to self-gratification, which eventually and inevitably leads to self-destruction. The four main characters, Harry Goldfarb, Sara Goldfarb, Marion, and Tyrone C. Love each suffer from individual addictions, be it their dreams, illegal/legal narcotics, or even television. "Ultimately not only their bodies and minds, but their very souls are destroyed by their addictions" (Giles 104).

Harry, a middle-class addict who is constantly affecting the trust and property of his mother Sara Goldfarb, is in what seems to be a dream-like, drug-induced romance with Marion. The novel begins with Harry taking his mothers television set, this being a monthly routine, to pawn it for drug money. Harry, Marion, and Tyrone C. Love share one of the same dreams as Tyrone states in the novel: "We could double our money. Easy…We wont get stung out and blow it. We/d be cool and take care a business and in no time we/d get a pound of pure and jest sit back and count the bread" (9). Their ambitions are simple, obtain a "pound of pure", a significant amount of heroin, and sell it, save the money without blowing it on their own needs, and eventually be well off in the business. Each character has a different plan for their money. Harry and Sara to start a small coffee shop, and Tyrone to get established in "the business". The "pound of pure" later in the story becomes a metaphor for their dream, or a general concept of their ideal happiness. All four characters including Sara are looking to obtain a "pure" degree of happiness. And each in their own way will go to great lengths to obtain it.

Sara's story is by far the most catching, not only because her tale of self-gratification is caused by several different addictions, but also because half of her destruction stems from her innocence alone, causing the reader to feel twice as much sympathy for her character, than for any of the others in the novel. Sara Goldfarb is a lonely old woman. She has an obsession with television, partially because of her addiction to her dream. Sara even goes as far as to give up meals for the television set, and as she is watching she feels emotion for the characters: " …Sara was so happy for them, then checked her money and realized she would have to go without lunch for a few days, but it was worth it to have the TV set. It wasn't the first time she gave up a meal for her set…" (13). Sara is constantly watching the same unspecified television program and one day receives a call from them ("Lyle Russel of the McDick Corporation") (25). "Mrs. Goldfarb, how would you like to be a contestant on one of televisions most poignant, most heartwarming programs? Oooo me? On the television???? She kept looking from the phone to the television, and back again, trying to look at both at the same time" (25). After receiving this phone call the rest of Sara's life goes into preparing for the television show and waiting for the McDick Corporation to call her back with more information. She soon begins to try several different diets, none of which are a success until she visits a doctor recommended by a friend. Her doctor puts her on diet pills, which subconsciously becomes her third addiction. Without seeing the warning signs Sara's life takes a turn for the worst after she becomes unhealthy from lack of eating, begins hallucinating, and ignores the advice and concern from her son Harry and instead chooses self-gratification. "It doesn't make any difference if I win or lose or if I just shake hands with the announcer. Its like a reason to get up in the morning, Its a reason to lose weight so I can be healthy. Its a reason to fit into the red dress. It's a reason to smile already. It makes tomorrow alright. Sara leaned a little closer to her son, What have I got Harry? Why should I even make the bed or wash the dishes? I do them, but why should I?...
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