Illusion Above Addiction: Based on Hubert Selby Jr.’s novel “Requiem for a Dream”
“Requiem for a Dream” was written in 1978 by the American writer Hubert Selby Jr., whose works are considered one of the most significant in national American literature of the 20th century. The work tells about the fate of four heroes who are trying to cope with the pressure of the world around them in the simplest and most accessible way for them – with the help of illusions.
Each of them has a dream and a desire to strive for it, but they are too weak to achieve it. And, like any weak person, they seek solace in something accessible to them: the elderly Sarah watches TV shows and soap operas all day, in which ordinary people suddenly win prizes, immediately becoming famous and significant, shows where eternal love and eternal are glorified happiness; young Harry, Marion and Tyrone take drugs, assuring themselves that they can refuse at any time.
Each of them receives only temporary satisfaction, and they repeat again and again, thereby creating another reality, where they feel good and calm. However, at the same time, they are rapidly destroying themselves, in reality moving away not only from their dreams, but also from a normal healthy life.
Selby Jr. raises the topic of drug addiction in his work not by chance. He himself suffered from tuberculosis and was forced to undergo surgical treatment, during which several ribs and part of his lung were removed. After treatment, Selby began taking various painkillers and heroin. Also, due to health problems, he was unable to earn a living and became interested in literature.
Perhaps that is why the novel is so successful, despite the popularity of the topic of drug addiction in literature, which manifested itself particularly vividly in the 1960s and early 70s. Selby, like no one else, was familiar with the culture, speech, behavior, thoughts of drug addicts. He wrote about a cruel and harsh world, familiar to him firsthand. Some of his works were not allowed for publication by the judiciary.
As a writer, Selby had no experience. He used his own “raw” language to create literary works. “Requiem for a Dream” is written in a torn, sharp style. The author uses a literary device called the “stream of consciousness”, which involves the reproduction on paper of feelings, emotions, experiences in order to depict the inner world of the hero through a broken syntax, non-linear narrative.
This explains that the dialogue of the novel often consists of a single paragraph, they do not stand out talking faces and the text does not use quotation marks. On the one hand, the author used this method for ease of printing. But besides, such a crude reception was an extremely successful find for describing the life of drug addicts.
The contrast between the methods of narration draws the reader’s attention to the difference in the lives of two heroes: Harry and his mother, Sarah. If Selby constantly uses the above “stream of consciousness” in describing the life of Harry and friends, then he writes about Sarah in a deliberately slow, calm, unhurried manner, showing the old woman’s empty and monotonous life.
It also focuses on the difference between the two generations, although in the end they are saved from reality in one way, which indicates an even greater tragedy of their lives and is not dependent on any circumstances of human weakness.
The existence of Harry, Tyrone and Marion can still be called stormy and not useless. Young people try to arrange their lives, they try to earn money from selling drugs, and at first they succeed, but their own dependence does not allow them to continue. The grand plans of Harry and Marion are crumbling. All that remains for them is the desire, the desire to return to the world created by drugs, they see nothing more, they do not perceive.
And it’s really scary that they don’t even try to fool themselves, pretend that they just have fun trying heroin, they know that it replaces most of their lives: “Everyone thought in his own way that you don’t have to dream with this work perfectly copes with the wonderful quality of heroin … “. Each of them, deep down in their hearts, long ago realize
As for Sarah, even if she understands all the hopelessness of the situation, she still categorically refuses to admit it. But her position is worse than that of other heroes. She is too dependent on food and TV shows, because in her life there is nothing more. If the son’s habit can be attributed to the desire to have fun and youthful stupidity, then Sarah replaces one dependence with another. And she does it unconsciously, and when Harry tells her that the diet pills are addictive, Sarah refuses to listen to him and does not believe in it, does not even attach importance to his words.
If for three friends the achievement of a dream in this way seems rather vague, then for Sarah the tablet is the direct path in her opinion to the television with which she raves. When she receives an invitation to the show, her life changes: “… And Sarah Goldfarb, Mrs. Seymour Goldfarb, rubbed her cheek on the pillow and smiled such a bright smile that even in the darkness shone with joy coming from her heart and soul. Now you can not worry about how to survive, but just live. Sarah Goldfarb has a future. ”
In the conversation that perhaps best describes her, Sarah says: “It’s not about the prizes, Harry. I don’t care whether I win or lose, or simply shake the hand of the host, I now have an incentive to get out of bed in the morning. The incentive to lose weight in order to become healthy. Stimulus to fit into a red dress. And just smile.
This magical stimulus makes every new day bearable. What do I have, Harry? Why would I even make a bed or dishes? Of course, I do it, but why do I need it? I’m alone. Seymour left me, you too. I have no one to take care of. Ada’s dyeing her hair. To everyone. To anyone. What do I have? I’m alone, Harry. I am old. Everyone needs a person for whom I would like to try.
Why should I go shopping if I don’t even have anyone to cook? I buy onions, carrots, sometimes chicken, but I will not make roast beef for myself? Or something … something special? No, Harry, I like the way I feel now. I like to think about the red dress and the television … and about your father and you. Now that I’m sunbathing, I’m smiling. ” For her, life is simply existence. As well as for all her friends who just cook, they clean and gossip while sitting in the sun.
In addition, the dialogue clearly distinguishes the relationship of mother and son, real, gentle and sincere. For the first time, Harry clearly understands how lonely his mother is. The novel begins with an episode when Harry steals the TV for the hundredth time from Sarah’s house to get money, and she goes and buys it for the hundredth time and is not even angry with her son. The relationship between son and mother is revealed during the development of the plot, but even at the time of the conversation, Harry, along with love, feels pity for Sarah. But what other feeling can this woman evoke?
She is an ordinary housewife who lived and continues to live for the sake of other people. She is weak, because herself does not exist for her, she is empty as a person and fills this void first with cares for the family, and then just someone else’s life, life from the series. However, you should not blame her.
Sarah devotes herself to the family, and when her last member grows up and no longer needs care, she can no longer do anything to herself and flees from a devastating and depressing reality to “an event of such astounding proportions and importance that it filled her with a new will to life became the embodiment of a dream that illuminated her days and comforted by lonely nights. ”
In addition to Sarah, sympathy in the novel deserves Marion. Her life situation is also pretty straightforward. As from the daughter of wealthy and extremely busy people, snobbery and business interest are expected from her. But Marion hates all this, she wants to be free from the stereotypes imposed by her parents. She is interested in art, she has a clearly defined dream – to become a famous and independent artist.
When she meets Harry, the achievement of her own dream seems very close to her. They make plans to open their own coffee shop, where her work will be presented. Moreover, Marion sees in him the only close person who can understand her. Their dreams merge into one, one makes the other feel necessary, significant and free: “She smiled at him with her lips, eyes, heart and her whole being: I love you, Harry.
We have a lot of good things waiting for us, baby, and we will show the world who we are, I feel it with my brain, literally with the bones of my bones, that there’s nothing that I can’t do, nothing, I will make you the happiest woman, and this is not just a promise, it’s a fact, because I have long felt something inside me that asks outside and nothing will stop me, and if you want the moon, then consider it already yours, I can even turn it more beautifully if you want. ”
Marion, taking drugs, protests against the way everyone around her treats her: “… they simply cannot believe that you know what you are doing and that you are a person WITH YOUR personal space that you are happy and satisfied by this. You see, this is the problem. If they could understand THIS, THEN they would not feel the threat, but, feeling the threat, THEY want to destroy you until you destroy them.
They simply cannot understand with their CHICKEN brains that we are happy where we are and do not want to have anything to do with them. “My world is MY world, and I do not want to have anything in common with their world.” Only under the influence of heroin does she feel a desire to move on through life. Her weakness is that she does not want to take any significant steps to prove to everyone and to herself that she really is, that she is individual, and she is a personality. Marion chooses a simple path, this is her mistake.
She just plunges into dreams: “… There was so much nostalgia in the voice that one could almost see how the memories drift in the blue smoke, the memories not only of music, joy and youth, but, perhaps, of dreams. They listened to music, and everyone heard something different. They felt relaxed and were part of the music, part of each other, almost part of the world. And so another night-carousel in the Bronx County Morgue was slowly sailing towards a new day. ” She remembers her dream and realizes the possibility of its fulfillment when it is already too late, when the dependence is too strong for Marion to become truly free, the way she wanted.
Tyrone, the most detached of the heroes, just lives, lives so that there is only one thing: “what Tyrone wanted most of all was peace. That’s for sure, baby, so no problem. Problems are what I have seen for twenty-five years. All the time, someone gets someone. And not the police, but the brothers.
Everyone is always dissatisfied with something …. I would just scrape into a small store – anyway, even though dry cleaning, even tele, would only last for me and my baby, and so without problems. A little business of his own somewhere in the suburbs. In nature. I don’t know, maybe in Queens or Staten Island. Just a house and a car and no troubles. ” Having spent all his years in not very favorable conditions, he wants to live like ordinary people should. With the help of drugs, he feels capable of work, relationships, anything that could be in his new life.
Harry Goldfarb is a young man who seeks freedom just as much as his friends. He rots in the world in which he has to live. He dreams of independence.
From mother, from society. And at some point he gets it: “He relaxed behind the wheel, looking at the road, from time to time glancing at the case, at people in other cars, thinking that they are now going either to work or home, for sure into some rat hole, and they have no idea what is happening around them, they don’t know what it means to be a free person, when you can go wherever you want and when you want, when you are held by the amazing girl that everyone stares at when you walk with her to some restaurant in the center, and they want to be in your place .. . “.
This happens when he and Tyrone successfully sell the product and get enough money to start living as they wanted. They agree to control themselves, not to spend heroin on personal needs. And again their illness absorbs hope for a better life. They earn illegally, but what else remains for them? For them, drugs are the norm. Youthful maximalism does not allow them to look for long ways to prosperity.
Harry does not understand who he is, what he is. He feels harmony with himself only when he is high, and once during the affair, when he talks with his mother: “He looked at his mother’s radiant face, and this feeling intensified, flowing through him with inexplicable strength and energy, and he somehow felt … yes, I think so … as a whole, or something. For a brief moment, Harry felt as if he were one, as if his every cell was harmoniously connected with all the others … as if he were a big whole being.
Whole creature. This feeling lived in him for the shortest time as he sat and looked at his mother, blinking. ” With the help of drugs, he is saved from the outside world, from the need to search for himself. Because “if these very lanterns interfere with looking at the stars in the sky, then apply a little magic, and you can easily adjust reality for yourself. Street lights will turn into stars, planets and the moon. ”
“Requiem for a Dream” is a novel, in which the narrative language plays a key role. For the atmosphere of the work, the character of the writing of the text is largely responsible. The story is taken alternately from each of the four main characters, and the vast majority of the written text is devoted to the thoughts of the heroes, and not their actions.
In addition, Selby divides his work into three parts: summer is the time of hopes and plans, autumn is the time when dreams begin to fade, and winter is the time when they die. The tension in the novel is constantly growing. If the beginning was executed by the author in a cheeky, laid-back style, then by the end of the work the text becomes already truly literary, without the use of vernacular expressions, slang.
What do the heroes end up with? To self-destruction. Having not achieved anything desired, they actually end their life, because they no longer feel anything but the need to receive a dose. They convince themselves that everything is in order: “Not that they could not quit, just the time was inappropriate.”
“A loud voice sounded clearly and distinctly in everyone’s head, telling them that they were hooked, and they were hooked seriously, but they tried not to pay attention to him, but the voice persisted, rather not even a voice, but a feeling penetrating into every cell, how shortly before this heroin, to which they became addicted, but they tried to deal with THIS feeling with the help of another voice saying: if you think some garbage, you can stop at any time if you want. Soon they’ll get better, but for now you can look from the taxi at people freezing, struggling with the cold wind, trying to escape from unpleasant thoughts, thinking that soon they will feel a beautiful warm wave of arrival. ”
However, the thought of a drug displaces everyone else. Never wanting to be like ragged people, roaming the street and groaning in breaking, they eventually become so. They, trying with the help of drugs to avoid this reality, eventually fell to an even deeper bottom.
“When someone got a dose, he still needed to get to the house or some safe place without incident, where he can calmly recover without the threat of running into someone who could take away heroin or even kill for him, or kill himself if you didn’t want to part with something at that moment more valuable than life, because without it his life would again become hell, and much worse than death.
Sometimes death seemed more like a reward than a threat, because an excruciating death on breaking was the worst thing that could happen. ” What did each of them get in the end? Sarah got under painful treatment in the hospital and almost lost her mind, Harry amputated his hand due to infection from a syringe, Tyrone went to jail for drug possession, where she continued to endure withdrawal, and Marion was forced into prostitution in order to receive money and spend it to buy heroin.
Each of the characters is looking for an opportunity to hide from what they have in life. Just as in any person, the deepest weakness is present in each of them. Their problem is that they put up with it, and do not try to fight. They give themselves moments of happiness and peace, but in this way do not go away from the difficulties that fate has provided them. Is it possible to justify them? Yes, because any person having a choice will want to use the simplest path to his happiness.
The four main characters of the novel “Requiem for a Dream” do not stand out from the crowd, none of them have a strong character, impressive willpower or anything else that will allow them to abandon the dreams created by drugs.
They are people who have chosen their way of protection from the world. And it is worth noting that the work raises not only the topic of dependence on all kinds of drugs. Selby mentions an addiction to both food and television. Modern people close themselves from their own problems by any means that can distract them from reality. Someone more, someone less. The main thing is not to drown completely, and if you do not want to, at least be able to return to this.
Based on the novel, in 2000, the film of the same name was shot, which caused great excitement of the audience and strengthened the fame of director Darren Aronofsky. In some schools, this movie is shown as educational.
As for the critics, their opinions about the book and the film are mixed. Many articles devoted to Requiem were almost enthusiastic: “… the film will certainly occupy its niche in the history of cinema, remembering as perhaps the most merciless and hopeless artistic illustration of the problems that are somehow tied to drugs, against which the former , also far from life-affirming works (like the classic “Joe”, the domestic “Tragedy in the style of” rock “or” Pharmacy cowboy “) pretty fade …
Aronofsky found an excellent cinematic equivalent to a state of consciousness, depressed cracked as a result of the use of potent means, resorting to torn, shock mounting, for which he used more than 2000 glues, thereby exceeding the conditional norm by 3-4 times.
However, the film would hardly have made such a strong impression, if the authors limited themselves to only one, even archiacal, topic. The dream requiem is perceived in such a hopeless and hopeless way, leaving no hope, primarily because drug addiction is presented only as an example (and an extremely graphic example) of a fatal illness that hit Western civilization at the turn of the century.
Dependence is generally elevated to the rank of the key concept of the modern “consumer society”. To top it off, the usual social bonds that still poison the relationships of even parents and children (not only Harry and his mother, but Marion and her wealthy father), added new, specific types of the most powerful, psychological enslavement.
The fate of the elderly Mrs. Goldfarb, thoroughly “addicted” to countless medications in pursuit of imaginary bliss and no longer able to distinguish true reality from the colorful world of the television show, is no better than the fate of young heroes, ruined in the bud. If not worse. “An illusion is above dependence” – this is the warning name of the second name of the film … ”- writes Yevgeny Nefedov, raising the movie to the rank of the best on this topic. He sees in him a deep and tragic meaning, a characterization of the existing society.
Anna Makarevich expresses a more restrained opinion about the book already, arguing that the main idea of the author’s creation of the work was to convey to the masses the idea of the dangers of drugs, using such a dramatic and shocking plot: “The main plot of the novel is that there are three young people with drug addiction and, accordingly, all the problems associated with it, are trying to change their lives.
They decide to break out of the street, making money selling drugs. Their attempts, of course, fail. And the reason in this case is simple: instead of giving up drugs, the heroes try to make them work for themselves, while continuing to be in the grip of addiction. In parallel, we are told the story of the mother of one of the heroes, filling her life with watching television programs and eating.
When the opportunity to appear on television is incompatible with food addiction, Sarah Goldfarb makes the same mistake as her son Harry – tries to replace one addiction with another, and also fails. At the end of the novel, the author paints us with a picture of four irreparably destroyed destinies, and we see how people who had a chance to regain themselves and freedom are doomed.
There are no pros and cons in the novel, its main message is that drugs are bad, and everything that is somehow related to them is described in the book exclusively negatively. Despite this, and maybe that is why the book has a strong emotional effect.
We can say about Selby’s novel that he lacks depth, that he contains a one-sided point of view or is too unambiguous. The book does indeed have a significant share of social agitation. But sometimes it seems to me that, in spite of the artistic weaknesses generated by such an approach, it is the only way to write about drugs. ”
I do not agree with the opinion of the latter, since I consider this novel primarily a revelation of the author, who tells the reader about what he himself experienced. The essence of “Requiem for a Dream” is not to denigrate drugs and people taking them, although, undoubtedly, this topic has been so popular in recent years that it will not hurt to tell about the horror of life of drug addicts.
But no, the work is written in order to show that each of us is looking for protection from the difficulties that await him every day, and often is not able to overcome them. It must be remembered that life, no matter how complicated it must be, must be lived with honor and dignity, for real, and for your happiness, true happiness that no drug is capable of giving, whatever kind of drug it is, you need to fight .
The theme of this work is an attempt by weak people to get away from life’s problems. Why weak? Yes, because strong people will look for a way to solve life problems. The weak ones just hide. Literature immediately reproduces the crises that occur in society. Suppose we can recall the novel by A. I. Goncharov “Oblomov”, where the glorious man Ilya Ilyich only does that he lives in a world of illusions, having a huge number of problems.
Even the strong Olga Ilyinskaya could not pull him out of this state. And this from Oblomov’s side is not at all a form of protest, it is laziness, spoiling and inability to fight for oneself and one’s life. This was a problem in the mid-nineteenth century, when people lost faith in themselves.
The beginning of the twentieth century. A new crisis. The “Morphine” by M. Bulgakov appears. A young doctor, full of hopes and plans, begins his professional career. Why did the hero end so badly? Perhaps the reason is the inability to defeat the routine that awaited him in the outback, in the escape from such a reality.
We can confidently say that the problems of American youth at the end of the twentieth century have become incredibly relevant in Russia today. Young people brought up on commercials and TV shows, where everything depends on the will of the case, are not used to solving problems on their own, often become virtual or real drug addicts, hostages of computer games and television shows.
They live according to fabulous laws – in anticipation of a miracle. Recall, for example, Russian folk tales. All ivans and eaters lie on the stove and spit on the ceiling until Sivka-Burka or Pike appear, who will arrange a happy life. Only one problem with modern heroes: there are no horses and magic fish. And you have to go into the world of illusions.
Therefore, of course, we can talk about the importance of the problem posed in Hubert Selby Jr.’s Requiem for a Dream and the huge popularity of the film in this book.