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Posted: December 15th, 2023

About Frank Herbert’s Dune
From Richard Nell’s Fantasy Book Review of Dune:
To borrow a line from a film adaptation of this novel: “When politics and religion ride in the same cart, the whirlwind follows.” Frank Herbert’s Dune is easily one of the most layered works of fiction produced during the twentieth century. From examining Byzantine political gambits to the human penchant for hero worship, Herbert using a far-flung future setting to examine the best and worst aspects of human nature.
There are two major themes that Herbert explores through the novel: ecology and religion. By utilizing the same setting for both themes he kept an already lengthy novel from becoming a weighty tome. It is not surprising that the author makes Arrakis (the desert planet that serves as the main setting) a living, breathing organism, complete with the simple creatures such as desert mice to the terrifying but awe-inspiring depictions of the great worms. Herbert uses the Fremen, a tribal, Bedouin-style society to illustrate the juxtaposition between humans’ desire to control their environment for their own benefit and the need to preserve the environment that maintains one’s culture. And it is this anachronistic culture of the Fremen which has cultivated its own messiah mythos. There can be little doubt that the author was fully aware of the parallels between the Fremen and the Judeo/Christian/Islamic (particularly Islamic) desert tribes that fashioned the three dominant religions of our world.

Instructions
Pick 2-3 of the following questions about Dune (Links to an external site.) and write an answer to each question in a Word file.
Support your answers with at least one quotation drawn from different sections of the book. Make sure to explain each quotation in depth.
Total length: Write a 1 page (total), double-space.
Discussion Questions
How does Herbert’s emphasis on scarcity and excess inform the reader’s view of certain characters’ “goodness” or “badness”?
Fate and free will are at odds throughout the novel. Do you think that Paul had influence over his fate, or were the events already set in stone? Why?
In Dune, does Paul fit the traditional role of the “chosen one”? Why or why not?
Dune frequently refers to a question of human versus animal, from the early scene with gom jabbar to Paul’s final duel with Feyd-Rautha. How is the human/animal dichotomy depicted? What does this contribute to the story?
Why do you think Herbert chooses to create a universe where technology such as computers and basic communications devices (no television news?) don’t exist? What thematic purpose does this serve in the novel? Why? Do you see this move weakening the novel in any way? Why or why not?
Consider the female characters of this novel: how they are portrayed, and what roles they play in the story. Do you find they meet, exceed, or fall short of your personal expectations for female characters in literature? Why?
The Fremen are arguably the most interesting part of Dune. Why do you think this is? What is it about Fremen culture (or the way it’s written) that makes it fascinating to learn more about?
“The people who can destroy a thing, they control it.” Consider this quote in the frame of our world today – environmentalism, politics, civil rights, etc. Do you think it holds true?
There are a number of quotes from Frank Herbert discussing heroes and his intentions in exploring the hero’s journey in Dune. For instance: “Don’t give over all of your critical faculties to people in power, no matter how admirable those people may appear to be. Beneath the hero’s facade you will find a human being who makes human mistakes. Enormous problems arise when human mistakes are made on the grand scale available to a superhero.” Do you think Herbert successfully conveys this message in Dune? Why or why not?
The Bene Gesserit sure seem powerful—what with having more superpowers than the entire Justice League combined. But does Dune portray strong female characters beyond merely giving them superpowers? If yes, who? And why is her role important to the novel? If no, why not, and what does this say about the novel’s gender politics?
The Baron Harkonnen is the only character with homosexual tendencies. Why do you suppose that only this character is given such an orientation? Does this elaborate on any themes or politics in the novel for you? If so, what, and why? If not, why not?
Dune is a novel obsessed with ecology, showing how nature shapes the lives of the organisms living in it. Pick an aspect of Arrakis that you feel better helps you understand part of our own ecology here on Earth. What is that aspect, and how does it help us understand our own ecology? What can we learn from it?

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