Requiem for a Dream (novel)

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Requiem for a Dream
First edition
Author Hubert Selby, Jr.
Country United States
Language English
Genre Modern tragedy
Publisher Playboy Press
Publication date
Media type Print
Pages 288
ISBN 0-87223-510-6
Preceded by The Demon
Followed by The Willow Tree

Requiem for a Dream is a 1978 novel by Hubert Selby, Jr., that concerns four New Yorkers whose lives spiral out of control as they succumb to their addictions.[1]


This story follows the lives of Sara Goldfarb, her son Harry, his girlfriend Marion, and his best friend Tyrone C. Love, who are all searching for the key to their dreams in their own ways. Selby says, "I believe that to pursue the American Dream is not futile but self-destructive because ultimately it destroys everything and everyone involved with it. By definition it must, because it nurtures everything except those things that are important: integrity, ethics, truth, our very heart and soul. Why? The reason is simple: because Life/life is giving, not getting." [2] In the process, they fall into devastating lives of addiction. Harry and Marion are in love and want to open their own business; their friend Tyrone wants to escape life in the ghetto. To achieve these dreams, they buy a large amount of heroin, planning to get rich by selling it.

Sara, Harry’s lonely widowed mother, dreams of being on television. When a phone call from a reality show casting company gets her hopes up, she goes to a doctor, who gives her diet pills to lose weight. She spends the next few months on the pills, wanting desperately to look thin on TV and fit into a red dress from her younger days. However, the casting company does not notify her about the details of her show. She becomes addicted to the diet pills and eventually develops amphetamine psychosis after her life continues to go downhil.. She eventually ends up in a mental institution, where she undergoes electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

Harry, Marion, and Tyrone become addicted to their own product. Eventually, when heroin becomes scarce, they turn on each other, slowly hiding the drugs they obtain from the other two members. On their way to Miami, Harry and Tyrone are arrested, convicted, and sentenced to jail. Harry's arm has become infected from repeated injections, and has to be amputated. Left alone, Marion becomes a prostitute to support her addiction. In jail, Tyrone faces frequent abuse, both from the guards and from the other patients due to his race.

Film adaptation[edit]

The novel was later adapted into a critically acclaimed film of the same name, released in 2000. The film was directed by Darren Aronofsky and starred Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, Marlon Wayans and Ellen Burstyn. Burstyn was nominated for the Best Actress Academy Award for her performance.[3]


  1. ^ DePalma, Anthony (April 27, 2004). "Hubert Selby Jr., Who Wrote `Last Exit to Brooklyn,' Dies at 75". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ Bowers, Abigail L. "An Enemy Deep: Spectacular Addiction In Hubert Selby's Requiem For A Dream." Journal Of American Culture 3(2010): 240 Expanded Academic ASAP. Web. 7 Apr. 2015.
  3. ^ Lyman, Rick (March 4, 2001). "OSCAR FILMS/ACTORS: An Angry Man and an Underused Woman; Ellen Burstyn Enjoys Her Second Act". The New York Times. 

Release details[edit]