Hubert Selby Jr.’s novels revolve around characters whose addiction to drugs leads them to self-destruct. The various protagonists’ addictions, while initially an attempt to escape their loneliness and feeling of disconnection from the world, eventually cause them to experience an emotional breakdown. They rely on drugs to make themselves feel complete, and without them, they feel an emptiness they cannot bear to handle, which only leads them to become more dependent. Throughout Selby’s works, he uses the generic name “Harry” to identify most of his protagonists. Each different Harry’s role is to show the toll that failure takes on human beings, for instance, in ruining relationships, causing self harm, and having drugs guide them down the wrong path. Specifically, in his novel Requiem for a Dream, the protagonist Harry dreams of opening up a coffee shop but his dependency on drugs prevents him from doing so. His reliance on drugs causes a downfall which destroys not only his dreams but also his relationship with his family and friends.
Similarly, In Los Angeles in the late twentieth century, former gang members shared the same sense of hopelessness and desire for acceptance in society as Selby’s characters. Homeboy Industries was a rehabilitating organization established to give aid to those who had a violent, law-breaking past. Young people joined gangs and committed violence because of poor education, a lack of adult supervision, and a desire for acceptance and belonging. Homeboy Industries’ gave them a second chance to reunite with their community. Greg Boyle, the founder of Homeboy Industries, created the organization because he believed a gang member’s life held just as much value as any other. Greg Boyle was a priest in the Los Angeles community and wanted the best for families and people in his community. He took charge and created this successful program so people in rough neighborhoods would not fall into gang violence but rather would help their community instead of hurting it. This program is one that still thrives today and continues to help these men and woman get their lives back on track.
Major Works Consulted:
Boyle, Greg. Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion. New York: Free, 2010.
“Hubert Selby Jr. - Google Search.” Hubert Selby Jr-Google Search. Web. 3 Apr. 2015.
Leap, Jorja. Jumped In: What Gangs Taught Me about Violence, Drugs, Love, and Redemption. Boston: Beacon, 2012.
Selby Jr., Hubert. Last Exit to Brooklyn. New York: Grove, 1964.
---. Requiem for a Dream. New York: Thunder’s Mouth, 2000.