Good Dune essays?

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D Pope
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Re: Good Dune essays?

Postby D Pope » 10 Mar 2014 12:48

The informations about the structure of the society in the world of Dune are hidden in the book
mainly in lessons to Paul. He is taught about the system of the Universe and the reader is learning
with him. Personality of the 'teacher' is quite important in these situations because it bears power
and authority. It is mostly the Duke Leto who warns his son and tries to get him prepared for the
fights and treachery he foresees. So, the dominance of males is highlighted once more. But the
following summary of the whole structure is in the book uttered by somebody else and it is great
surprise that she is a woman. Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam says: "We've a three-point
civilisation: the Imperial Household balanced against the federated Great Houses of the Landsraad,
and between them, the Guild with its damnable monopoly on interstellar transport. In politics, the
tripod is the most unstable of all structures" (36). The instability of the structure is the most
important information from the summary because it enables the story to develop. These statements
also uncover the intelligence of the Reverend Mother to a particular extent. She has to have
relatively extended knowledge of politics to identify that the system is not stable. Even though,
officially, there is no place for females in reigning, still, they are not out of it completely. In
Harrison's Dune, this summary is uttered by Dr. Yueh, more precisely by his hologram, during the
Paul's lesson in the opening scene of the film. The authority and knowledge is given back to the
So what is the official role of women in the Dune society? What are they allowed to do if they
are banished from the participation in the Landsraad or the Guild and from the Padishah Emperor's
throne without any doubts, too. They are left with two of the most traditional areas of influence:
household and religion. Within the first one they are valued as bearers and nurturers of life,
landladies and companions. But their greatest value, especially when they are daughters, is that they
can be married and so the new alliances can be established or the old enmities conciliated. This role
of the bond,which also typical for the Middle Ages, is represented by the princess Irulan. At the end
of Dune, she is married to Paul to make his accession to the Padishah Emperors throne legal and
smooth. In the Harrisson's film, this Irulan's role is emphasized by her father's disappointment by
her sex and his clear statement that the most important thing is to find her a suitable husband. None
of the above mentioned roles brings women a respect. They are not taken seriously, they are thought
to be sensitive as opposite to male's rationality. It can be seen in the Duke's carelessness when he
speaks with Paul about the Reverend Mother's warnings. He says: "Don't let a woman's fears cloud
your mind. No woman wants her loved ones endangered. The hand behind those warnings was your
mother's. Take this as a sign of her love for us" (57). In this case "woman's fears" are not only the
fears that a woman has, but also the fears that are unreasoning and a bit absurd. They are very often
based only on feelings and instincts and therefore men do not believe them and laugh at them. The
only quality the Duke appreciates in his concubine is her love for him and their son. So, according
to him, she lives only through his and Paul's lives, which clearly corresponds to the characteristics
of the Mother/Wife role in the system of the literary female stereotypes. Via this stereotype the two
most important characteristics of women ­ passivity and weakness ­ appear. The females are not
participating in the fights for power, they are mostly staying in their households and taking care.
When the Padishah Emperor comes to Arrakis to crush the Fremen rebellion, he takes with him his
whole household and Paul comments it: "They've even brought their women, [... .] Ah-h-h, my dear
Emperor, how confident you are" (516). It is clear that he considers women very weak. Therefore,
according to this opinion, they should be shielded and taken as far from fight as possible. Taken,
because they are not supposed to have the will of their own.
As I have already mentioned, the second area of influence, which are women allowed to
participate in, is religion. According to Hand: "women have always exerted official or unofficial
power in the area of religion" (25). Considering this, the Herbert's world is not so surprising. He
created a Bene Gesserit order, the secret sisterhood, hidden in the background of all the plans and
diplomacy. The Bene Gesserit complements the tripod composed from the Emperor, the Landsraad
and the Spacing Guild. It seems to be a religious order, but powers and abilities of its members are
much greater and therefore I will explore them in greater detail in the next chapter.
Bene Gesserit
I think it is impossible to speak about women in Dune and omit the Bene Gesserit. Most of the
female characters, who appear in the book, are members of this society and this membership defines
these women to great extent. It gives them unusual abilities and also limits them by its rules. Except
Chani, all of the remaining females, who I would like to study closer, are Bene Gesserits, but Lady
Jessica has the greatest space in the book and her abilities can unfold in its full scale. Therefore, I
will use her as an example of all the Bene Gesserit techniques and abilities. According to the
"Terminology of the Imperium," little dictionary that Herbert added to his novel, the Bene Gesserit
is: "the ancient school of mental and physical training established primarily for female students ..."
(587). This short definition gives only the brief idea of the Bene Gesserit because its powers go far
beyond these few words. Bene Gesserits use science, especially psychology and biology,very well,
they are good at politics and in a certain way they could be described as a religious order. These
three concepts mingle together in their goals and in their training.
The feeling of religion appears when the Bene Gesserit is described as a sisterhood. It is a
secretive community with strict rules, which can be called an `order' and these connotations are
supported by the sound of the name itself because `Gesserit' sounds pretty similar to `Jesuit'. Brian
Herbert speculates about this connection in his biography of his father and it is also commented on
by O'Reilly, he says that "Herbert has described the Bene Gesserit as `female Jesuits'" (O'Reilly,
ch 5). And he also argues that this order could have been inspired by Herbert's life because he has
ten aunts and they forced his father to enroll him to the Jesuit school. It might be the source of the
inspiration, but I think that Herbert rather had in mind images that the name would invoke.
These associations and speculations are further developed by possible translations of "Bene
Gesserit". According to Wikipedia, the name was probably taken from the Latin and means "`[s]he
shall have behaved well'. [... .] Among the [other] possibilities are `it will have done well', `she
will have born [a child] well'" (Wikipedia, "Origin of the name"). The first possible translation is
obviously tied with the strong discipline of the order and with the harsh training of its members.
The last one sounds interesting and perhaps also a bit awkward in a connection with a religious
order, but the Bene Gesserit is not a typical one because it possesses only some features of a typical
order. One of the main aims, the girls are trained for, is to bear a child to a man they have been told
to and do it in proper time according to the Bene Gesserit's plans. Therefore, the last translation of
the name is a bit awkward when talking about a religious order, but it will be surprisingly fitting
when I will speak about their breeding program.
There is one more connection of the Bene Gesserit with religion, but it is absolutely turned up
side down. Members of an arm of the order called Missionaria Protectiva travel throughout the
universe and modify existing religions by implanting prophecies and messiahs into them. There are
two purposes for doing this. The first one helps the Bene Gesserit to be a political force because
through religion, they can control and influence the whole society and at the same time stay in the
shade. The second purpose is more clear and obvious. Every Bene Gesserit knows prophecies and
means used by Missionaria Protectiva and thus when endangered she could use them and gain
security among the people. Lady Jessica takes this advantage when she and Paul are forced to
escape to the desert and they need to secure their place among the Fremen, desert people. Paul is
considered to be Mahdi and she needs to prove that they really are the mother and son that are
supposed to come according to the legend. Thanks to Missionaria Protectiva, she knows the chant
that is embedded in Fremen's religion and by producing it right she secures their position. After the
chant: "she felt cynical bitterness at what she had done. [And thought:] Our Missionaria Protectiva
seldom fails. A place was prepared for us in this wilderness. The prayer of salat has carved out our
hiding place" (340). She is disgusted by the Bene Gesserit methods and feels that she is not frank to
the Fremen, but on the other hand, she knows very well that this deception saved her and Paul's
lives. So Missionaria Protective proves its importance.
I described the Bene Gesserit as a religious order, but it is evident that this characteristic is
everything, but definite. It is caused by the complicated essence of this religious order. A more
precise term to describe it is probably a word sisterhood that I used at the beginning and which
meaning has not been so narrowed in our culture. The rest of the Bene Gesserit interests should be
explored to get deeper knowledge and more complete image. Frequently, people tend to think in the
means of binary opposition and the opposite of religion is very often science. I have already said
that the Bene Gesserit uses biology and psychology for its purposes. Their members are trained to
expand their ordinary abilities and the techniques are so successful that the Bene Gesserits are very
often called `witches' by people outside the sisterhood.
Members of the sisterhood are trained both physically and mentally so let me start with a
physical training and abilities. Thanks to various lessons similar to Yoga or meditation, the Bene
Gesserits are aware of any muscle or nerve in their bodies and they also have control over each of
them. This allows them to stay calm in every situation, which helps them to think clearly even
under stress or in danger. Paul was taught these techniques by his mother and he uses them
frequently throughout the book. The most impressive moment is when Jessica gets accidentally
buried under the slide of sand. He "still[s] the savage beating of his heart, set[s] his mind as a blank
slate upon which the past few moments could write themselves" (289). Thanks to his calm and
precise recalling and analyzing of the action that lasted only a second, he finds and digs out his
mother. All the process of calming, recalling and analyzing takes him only a moment, which is also
very important in a danger. With all his speed and calm he still would not probably be able to rescue
his mother in time because, when buried under the sand, she would suffocate. But she as a Bene
Gesserit has control not only over all muscles and nerves, but over internal organs too. She puts
herself in some kind of lethargy and so she gives Paul more time to find her. A Bene Gesserit's
control over internal organs is such that "[t]hey can commit suicide at will by simply stopping their
hearts" (Wikipedia, "Internal Organic-Chemical Control"). They are also able to control the sex of
the child they will bear. This is a remarkable ability that makes their biological breeding program
possible and, in fact, the whole story originates in it. Lady Jessica was commanded to have a
daughter with the Duke Leto Atreides, but she did not obey and bore a son ­ Paul. Other members
of the Bene Gesserit obey the instructions there are given by the sisterhood and thus for example the
Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV has no male heir.
The control over internal organs involves also a control over chemical processes in the body and
any Bene Gesserit can change chemical structures of substances included in her body. This ability
allows Jessica to stay alive when she had to drink the `Water of Life', poisoned and drug containing
substance, to prove her exceptionalness and make her and Paul's position among the Fremen more
secure. She becomes impaired by the drug and thus she sinks to herself to confront her inner self.
She is aware of the danger and she is looking for it in the water she drank:
she began recognizing familiar structures, atomic linkages: a carbon atom here, helical
wavering ... a glucose molecule. An entire chain of molecules confronted her, and she
recognized a protein ... a methyl-protein configuration.
It was a soundless mental sigh within her as she saw the nature of the poison.
With her psychokinestehetic probing, she moved into it, shifted an oxygen mote, allowed
another carbon mote to link, reattached a linkage of oxygen ... hydrogen. (408-9)
Her search and following changes illustrate the level on which a Bene Gesserit is able to influence
processes and functions of her body and it also shows that they are deeply educated in various
fields, including for example chemistry.
All the Bene Gesserit physical abilities are based on the extreme concentration. The members of
the sisterhood use their consciousness, but they are very well aware of unconsciousness. As
O'Reilly remarks they are "conscious by choice" (O'Reilly, ch 4). They are able to focus on
important things even though they are presented only as minor details. This ability, which is
acquired by intensive training, makes them appear almost inhuman. From the smallest hints in
person's behavior, for example pose, voice or reaction to the Bene Gesserit interaction, they are able
to deduce a state of one's mind. Some of the members can even recognize whether the person is
lying or not for a certainty. This is very helpful when dealing with unknown people or in unknown
setting. People that are known can be much more easily manipulated. The sisterhood makes use of it
and after identifying one's personality and momentary state could make him do what they need.
The Voice, one of the most powerful and active `weapons' of the Bene Gesserit, is also based on
the detailed understanding of the person that is to be commanded. Every member of the sisterhood
learns how to adjust her voice according to the person: its loudness, pitch, timbre and tone. And she
"can speak to a person's unconscious mind, [command] it in a way that the conscious mind is aware
of, but cannot resist" (Wikipedia, "The Voice"). The Voice is used several times through the novel.
In one scene, Lady Jessica uses it on one of the Duke Leto's men to prove her strength. After he
finds himself sitting back on a chair as she wished: "[he] tried to swallow in a dry throat. Her
command had been regal, preemptory ­ uttered in a tone and manner he had found completely
irresistible. His body had obeyed her before he could think about it. Nothing could have prevented
his response­not logic, not passionate anger . . . nothing" (84). The enormous power of the Voice is
proved clearly by this example, because the commanded man is very well educated, intelligent and
wise. From his reaction it can be deduced that Lady Jessica was good student of the Bene Gesserit
knowledge because the effect of the Voice always depends on the ability of the user to observe, to
analyze and also on her experience.
It can be assumed that the Voice is based on the power of the word itself and also Wikipedia
describes it as "an extreme version of oratorical ability" ("The Voice"). In all cultures, especially in
these without writing, some words are special. They cannot be pronounced at all occasions and they
have to be handled with a special care like ceremonial objects. The Bene Gesserit share this respect
of words and it is manifested most clearly by the "Litany Against Fear":
I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I
will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I
will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I
will remain. (267)
The purpose of these words is special. They should focus one's thoughts on one stable point to
allow one's mind to start working again. When a Bene Gesserit is stressed and she cannot establish
her calm only by her will, the Litany is a powerful device. It could be learned easily and its form
supports the flow of the words. Thus it is not complicated to go through it even when the mind is
clouded by a fear. Moreover, the minor variations of the words are not important and they appear
throughout the book. The most important words are preserved in all the versions and the power of
the Litany is hidden mainly in its rhythm and sound.
The word `fear' appears several times in the litany and I think it is because it should be
pronounced to be made trivial. As I remarked earlier, special words have special occasions to be
said and some of them should never be pronounced. When the word is pronounced many times, it is
defeated and its power is diminished. One had to confront oneself with the word and its meaning to
say it aloud and when he or, in the case under question, mostly she admits the fear openly, it is
partly destroyed. It is no longer anything special and it has no power over her.
All these above mentioned abilities, techniques and training are fascinating, but they do not exist
only for their own sake. As I have already remarked, the Bene Gesserit can be seen as a political
force, too and their members use various devices to influence people and their actions. But even this
political struggle can be seen as a tool for a greater goal they hope to achieve by a complex
breeding program they carry on for countless generations. They try to isolate specific genes that
should produce the Kwisatz Haderach, `the shortening of the way'. He should be a male Bene
Gesserit with abilities to see both future and past. Some of Bene Gesserits are able to see the past,
but only along their female ancestors' line. When looking to past, there is always a place that
frightens them and they are unable to face it. The Kwisatz Haderach would be able to see male as
well as female pasts, to look straight at this horrifying place and doing so he would open "the
depths of active male psychology as well as the receptive female" (O'Reilly, ch 3). So he would
interconnect the two poles male and female, and make activity and passivity one thing. Bene
Gesserits take advantage of their skills in controlling other people, but most usually they use
traditional `weapons' as female beauty and enjoyable behavior. These, together with their ability to
choose their child's sex and an almost absolute obedience of members, allow them to carry on with
the scheme and to come very close to the intended end. But, as I have already pointed out, the
obedience of the Bene Gesserit members is not absolute. Lady Jessica did not follow the plan and
bore a son by this means she destroyed the complicated breeding scheme and opened number of the
other possibilities. Thanks to the sisterhood and their careful plans and precious manipulation,
Paul's genes are almost these of the Kwisatz Haderach. But because of his mother's will and
disobedience, he is not the Kwisatz Haderach the Bene Gesserit envisioned. He is not their willing
In this chapter, I have demonstrated how important and powerful the Bene Gesserit is. They are
able to influence the people and their opinions and make them to act in the preferred ways.
Therefore, they can secretly shape the world of Dune, in which they officially have no powers. They
have really mighty techniques that help them to gain their point. Among the most important of them
is their enclosed and stable organization. It stands behind the success of their breeding program and
also behind all their abilities gained by training. Their special focus on an observation of minute
details enables them to get deep knowledge of anybody and also to control anybody. Thanks to the
ability to control their muscles, nerves, internal organs and even chemical processes in their bodies,
they can stay alive in various dangerous situations. It is no wonder they are called `witches' by
common people. However their powers are mostly trained, they enable most of the female
characters to cope with the male-dominated world of Dune.
Lady Jessica
In the preceding chapter, I used the character of Lady Jessica as a representative of the Bene
Gesserit. I think, she is the most important female character in Dune because the area of her action
is the widest one among the limited arenas of all the women. She is a mother of Paul, the main hero,
and therefore her position in the society is high. But on the other hand, she is defined by her
motherhood,which limits her at the same time. So first, I would like to show how smoothly she fits
in the Mother/Wife role and that she carries the defining features of this role that were described in
Chapter 2. But I think that even though she fulfills the role's definition so well, she counteracts it at
the same time. During the course of the novel, there are places and scenes where Lady Jessica acts
in a clearly opposite way to the defined stereotype. So, I would like to prove that the seeing Lady
Jessica only as the Mother of a hero is incomplete and show that she is much more active and
powerful than it seems at the first sight.
In the chapter on female stereotypical roles, I have defined the Mother/Wife role. Woman in this
role was described as passive and submissive in the relationship to her man. She was also defined as
life producing and nurturing, caring and having concern for her children. And she also should be
kind and beautiful. All these features can be discovered in the character of Lady Jessica and they
were more or less precisely transferred on the screen. So, I will demonstrate that she is assigned the
Mother/Wife role in the book and in the both film adaptations.
The passivity is the main attribute of all the women's appearance in the books or films. But in the
case of the Mother/Wife, her passivity manifests itself especially in her relationships with her
children or husband. She is frequently driven behind them and does not do anything on her own.
The majority of the decisions concerning her are done by her man or children, she does not do them
herself. So, in the novel, Lady Jessica is not deciding herself, all the decisions are done by Paul. On
the run from the Harkonnens to the desert he takes command and she simply follows his orders.
After the first night in the desert, her son gives orders to get on the walk again:
`Pass up the pack,' it was Paul's voice, low and guarded.
She moved to obey, heard the water literjons gurgle as she shoved the pack across the floor.
She peered upward, saw the Paul framed against stars.
`Hurry up,' Paul said. `I want to collapse the tent.' (240)
Obviously, he himself has decided they have relaxed enough and they will continue in their run and
she obeys him without a question. Her mental position is emphasized by a physical position in this
scene. She sees her son above herself. He also goes first from the tent and she follows him. And
actually, he urges her to speed up not to hinder him from the further run. To collapse the tent is
clearly his will, it is not presented as a need or their shared wish. After the collapsing the tent:
"Jessica followed automatically, noting how she now lived in her son's orbit" (241). Obviously,
Jessica herself is aware of her sons lead and her following. In accordance with her role she is driven
behind her son.
In the relationship with her husband the Mother/Wife is passive, too. The man's decisions are
mostly superior to the woman's ones. The Mother/Wife is totally dependent on her men and behaves
submissively. The relationship between Jessica and Leto is balanced and affectionate, however, the
submission reveals also there and it stresses Jessica's Mother/Wife role. It is the most clearly visible
when they are discussing where to hang the painting of the Duke's father and the head of the bull
that killed him:
He glanced at the painting of his father. `Where were you going to hang that?'
`Somewhere in here.'
`No.' The word rang flat and final, [... .]
`My Lord,' she said, `If you'd only ...'
`The answer remains no. I indulge you shamefully in most things, not in this. I've just come
from the dining hall where there are -'
`My lord! Please'
`The choice is between your digestion and my ancestral dignity, my dear,' he said. `They
will hang in the dining hall.'
She sighed. `Yes, my Lord.' (65)
It is clear that the Duke decides according to his interests and to preserve his ancestral dignity, and
Jessica obeys his orders. Her interests are not taken into the consideration, even though, he knows
about them. But they are seen as being inferior and absolutely irrelevant. Jessica does not fight
against her partner. She calmly and humbly agrees with him although it means she will have to
suffer the presence of these artifacts during every official meal. She submits to the Duke Leto and
stands to her Mother/Wife role. In the Harrison's film, there is no such a debate and so Jessica is
shown as much more independent, but only to a certain degree. The roles in their relationship are
distributed differently. It is Jessica's task to change the palace into a comfortable living place and
Leto is in charge of the protecting it. This distribution is also a sign of Jessica's role because the
care about the household is among the Mother/Wife's tasks. And so, the independence is not so
great as it may seem.
The life producing and nurturing qualities are the next features that define the Mother/Wife role.
They are clearly assigned to Lady Jessica in the opening of the book because she is mentioned for
the first time as "the mother of the boy, Paul" (13). Her ability to produce and nurture a new life is
further accentuated by her second pregnancy. She is in a close contact with her unborn daughter and
she uses all her Bene Gesserit abilities to protect Alia. Even during their run to the desert: "[s]he
rest[s] her hand on her abdomen, awareness focused on the embryo there" (222). She comforts the
child this way several times during the course of the story. The most important and interesting
occasion is after than Jessica drinks the `Water of Life' to become the Reverend Mother because, at
that moment, her comforting and care saves her daughter's sanity and probably the life, too. So, in
accordance with her role, Jessica uses a great part of her potential to nurture her children. For the
Lynch's Dune, scene of Alia's birth was filmed. Finally, it was not included in the cinema version of
the film because of the extensive cutting, but I think, it can be taken as a prove that Lynch wanted to
emphasize Jessica's life producing ability and thus her role of the Mother.
Aside from the physical nurturing, children need care in various different fields. Especially, they
should be protected from all the dangers. This care and efforts to shield her child or children and
also the concern for them are another defining factor of the Mother/Wife. In Dune, Jessica
frequently fears for Paul and her feelings are so strong that she is not able to hide them, even
though, she is trained in the Bene Gesserit way. At the beginning of the book, when the Reverend
Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam comes to test whether Paul is `animal' or `human,' Lady Jessica
knows the test may kill Paul and she is scared. Her fear is so great, Paul can recognize it: "Jessica's
hand went to Paul's shoulder, tightened there. For a heartbeat, fear pulsed through her palm. [...]
What does she fear? Paul wondered" (17). Holding the son's shoulder is clear sign of the protection
or at least of a tendency to protect and the fear is pronounced clearly there. Jessica transparently
shows her concern for her son. This scene is similarly portrayed in both film adaptations. In both
cases Jessica leaves after the strict order of the Reverend Mother and she is waiting just behind the
door. When it is opened, she almost falls into the room. Therefore, her care and interest in her son's
well being makes her do things inappropriate for her. Similarly, during their settling in palace on
Arrakis, when she is giving instructions to one of the servants, she gets overwhelmed by fear for
Paul: "An urgent need to see her son gripped Jessica. She began walking toward the arched
doorway that led into the passage to the dining hall and the family wings. Faster and faster she
walked until she was almost running" (73-74). Even though she is not noble born, her breeding and
position of the Duke's concubine do not normally allow her to run through the palace like little girl.
But her care for Paul is more important for her than the social norms. This situation clearly shows
that she is the Mother at the first place and only then she is Lady.
The last defining feature of woman, I would like to mention, is beauty. It appears in the features
of all of the stereotypical roles except of the Old Maid, but I think it differs a bit in every case. The
Mother/Wife's beauty is an earthly one mixed with kindness and feeling of safety. Lady Jessica's
appearance is described as "a regal beauty" (65) by the duke Leto and he continues in describing his
view of her: "The face was oval under a cap of hair the colour of polished bronze. Her eyes were set
wide, as green and clear as the morning skies of Caladan. The nose was small, the mouth wide and
generous. Her figure was good, but scant: tall and with its curves gone to slimness" (65). According
to the description, Lady Jessica is a beautiful woman and her beauty is universal, because the oval
face, clear eyes and small nose are thought to be the most attractive features by the majority of
people. The wide mouth connotes the smile and therefore the kindness of the Mother/Wife. In both
films, the actresses playing Lady Jessica were beautiful and both the directors hold close to the cited
description. But in my opinion, Jessica from the Harrison's miniseries, who was played by Saskia
Reeves, carries much more warmth and kindness and so she is more believable in her Mother/Wife
I think, I have illustrated that Lady Jessica fits in the Mother/Wife role very smoothly and that
she fulfills most of the criteria that were mentioned in Chapter 2 as the defining features of this role.
So, she is perceived as the good mother protecting and supporting her children by the ordinary
reader. But in the rest of this chapter, I would like to prove that this view is biased. She is the
mother, but also a person on her own. She does her own decisions and has her own interests and this
directly antagonizes the base of the stereotypical role she is assigned to. She is not so passive and so
sacrificing herself to the Duke Leto or Paul as it may seem. First, I am going to focus on her having
the son instead of the daughter. This choice makes Jessica very active and her reasons for doing it
are also very interesting and allows for more than one explanation. Then I would like to mention
Jessica's actions when she and Paul come to the Fremen and also how she educates and advises
Paul. All these examples will show Lady Jessica acting and thus opposing her stereotypical role.
As I have already written, Lady Jessica is mentioned for the first time in the novel as "the
mother of the boy;" she is not simply the mother, but the male sex of her offspring is included in the
description. The importance of this information reveals itself very early. Only four pages later the
Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam, coming to test Paul, swears for herself: "Damn that
Jessica! [...] If only she'd borne us a girl as she was ordered to do!" (17) These are the first hints of
the Bene Gesserit breeding program that the reader gets and at the same time, this quote shows
Jessica's activity. She has independently and deliberately chosen the sex of her child. By this choice
she started the whole story. Because her son is not an ordinary child and he is not the Kwisatz
Haderach, he is something beyond all the expectations. Jessica has chosen to have son and so the
history was set on absolutely different track. It is not anything new that the sex of a child is
influenced by that half of genetic information it obtains from the father, but as the Reverend Mother
Mohiam says in one of the unpublished scenes: "Women have always controlled what sex their
offspring will be [. ...] By acceptance or rejection of sperm. Even when they didn't know the
mechanism of it, they controlled it" (Herbert, RTD 235). The Bene Gesserits know the mechanism
and therefore their control was brought from the subconscious level to the full consciousness. So
having a son instead of a daughter was Jessica's own decision and she was fully aware of it.
This notion of activity was to be even more stressed in the Jodorowsky's prepared film
adaptation. In this version the Duke Leto should be a sterile man, castrated during the bull fight.
Lady Jessica has to use her Bene Gesserit abilities to get inseminated by the drop of Leto's blood. In
the script: "[t]he camera followed [...] the red drop through the ovaries of the woman and sees its
meeting with the ovule where, by a miraculous explosion, it fertilises it" (Jodorowsky 6). The
efforts that Jessica has to invest into having the son would be immense. Without her special abilities
and her decision, there would be no son, no hero and in effect no story. Her predestined female
passivity is openly opposed by the fact that she herself makes a choice and therefore her fitting into
the traditional role does not seem so smooth any longer.
There is a question that immediately rises when Jessica's disobedience is discussed. Why? What
was the reason she decided to disobey the orders from the sisterhood that brought her up and that
give her the immense abilities? The first possible reason is obvious, the relationship between her
and Leto is described as full of love so presumably she would do a lot to please him. In the society,
which is described in Dune and is so similar to the Middle Ages, sons are much more valued than
daughters. And thus, there are no doubts that the Duke Leto would prefer an heir instead of the
daughter. So, the first reason could be her love for the Duke. She uses it as an excuse when
confronted with the Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam:
`You were told to bear only daughters to the Atreides.'
`It meant so much to him,' Jessica pleaded.
`And you in your pride thought you could produce the Kwisatz Haderach!'
Jessica lifted her chin. `I sensed the possibility.'
`You thought only of your Duke's desire for a son,' the old woman snapped. (35)
It is obvious that the Reverend Mothers sees Jessica's feelings as the reason for her disobedience
and if this was the real reason, it would further support the notion of Jessica's submission to her
partner. But in this conversation one more reason is touched and it makes situation a bit more
The second possible motivation for Jessica to have a son instead of a daughter obviously could
be the possibility that she may produce the Kwisatz Haderach. This would not mean anything to the
Duke, but for Jessica it would be a reason for a great pride because the Bene Gesserits were
carrying their breeding program for millenniums. Also, she as a mother of the Kwisatz Haderach
would enjoy the great reverence. It is interesting that, in the above quoted conversation with the
Reverend Mother, Jessica does not refuse her accusation. Her reaction is much closer to the
affirmation than to the denial. So it seems to me that the love to the Duke Leto is some kind of an
official reason that Jessica thought to be more easily accepted by the people, by the other members
of the sisterhood and also by the readers of the book. But the real grounds for her decision are
hidden in her wish to achieve something. And giving birth to the Kwisatz Haderach would surely
make her important. But her son is not precisely what the Bene Gesserits were aiming at, he is
something more, he says about himself: "You're thinking I'm the Kwisatz Haderach, [...] Put that
out of your mind. I'm something unexpected" (232). He has the power to see both future and past
and he is able to know his mother's thoughts. In this context, his accusation: "You didn't want a
son! [...] You wanted a Kwisatz Haderach! You wanted a male Bene Gesserit!" (229) have to be
viewed as the statement of fact. And it seems much more believable that the real reason for having a
son was not Jessica's love for the Duke, but her own interests. So, she has not only consciously
chosen the sex of her child, but moreover she was motivated by her own interests. Doing so, she put
herself in the center and the beginning of the whole story. Positively, this action counteracts the
assigned Mother/Wife role and Lady Jessica cannot be seen as passive and driven behind her
partner any more.
At the beginning of this chapter, I have described Jessica's relationship with Paul during their run
from the Harkonnens to the Fremen. I have shown that she follows her son, who makes the
decisions. So, when they first meet the Fremen troop in the rocks deep in the desert, Paul, as a
leader, should protect his mother. But the situation is different. She fights for herself and proves her
value. The Fremen have been told to seek Paul and protect him because he can be a messiah, who
will change the waste Arrakis to a flowering green paradise, but they are not sure about the value of
Jessica. In the harsh conditions of the desert, untrained people are generally a burden and they may
endanger the whole group. A non-Fremen woman is automatically thought to be untrained and
therefore worthless except for the value of the water that is incorporated in her body. Stilgar, the
leader of the Fremen troop, tells Jessica: "I can see possibility in this strong boy-man: he is young
and can learn. But what of yourself, woman?" (324). His statement shows that the value of the
person among the Fremen is directly proportional to his or her potential, both physical and mental
and that it is carefully judged. Physical strength of the woman is usually minor in comparison with
the man's force and so her worth has to be connected rather with the mental area. This can be
illustrated by the next part of the dialog between Stilgar and Jessica:
`The strength of a woman can be boundless,' Stilgar said. `Certain it is in a Reverend
Mother. Are you a Reverend Mother?'
For the moment, Jessica put aside the implications of the question, answered truthfully, `No.'
Obviously, Jessica's credit after this answer gets very low and Stilgar has decided according to the
Fremen rules to `take her water,' which means to kill her. At this point, Paul tries to step into the
discussion, but "Stilgar flicked a glance across Paul, but kept his attention on Jessica" (324-25).
Paul is clearly put out of his chief position and Stilgar becomes his and also Jessica's leader. He is
going to decide about her as it would be appropriate for her female role.
But Jessica does not behave according to her role at all. She does not conform to the rules and to
Stilgar's decision. On the contrary, she physically fights him:
Jessica's motion started as a slumping, deceptive faint to the ground. It was the obvious
thing for a weak outworlder to do, and the obvious slows an opponent's reactions. [ ...] She
shifted as she saw his right shoulder to drop to bring weapon within the folds of his robe to
bear on her new position. A turn, a slash of her arm, a whirling of mingled robes, and she was
against the rocks with the man helpless in front of her. (325)
In the blink of an eye, Lady Jessica has defeated the leader of the Fremen troop. It means that she
mastered the strongest and the most experienced man among them. So, her value has increased
steeply, and, after the fight, she is the most powerful person on the scene. She has proven the
physical strength, more precisely the ability to fight, and for sure, these are not included in the
characteristics of the Mother/Wife role. The only instant when, according to the stereotypes, woman
fights is when her child is in danger. Then she is able to sacrifice herself to protect her offspring.
But clearly, Jessica has not fought to save Paul because his life was not in danger as Stilgar clearly
stated. She has attacked Stilgar and has mastered him to prove her value and save her own life. This
is in outstanding opposition to the passivity and self-sacrificing that are typical for the Mother/Wife.
If she was to resign, she would not fight and would die for her son. So she has not obviously chosen
sacrificing herself to Paul because her attack endangered her son's life. To sum it up, she has
decided to fight for herself and this way she contradicts more of the defining features of the
Mother/Wife role.
I would like to illustrate her strong will and independent decision making on one more example.
After the meeting in the desert, the group of Fremen with Paul and Jessica goes to the sietch, city
dug in the rocks, where the Fremen live. But the Fremen are about to leave this one and move
deeper to the desert to hide from the Harkonnens. Before the departure, Lady Jessica decides to
undergo an unknown rite and this way become the Reverend Mother, which will secure her stable
social position. I will show that also in this case she decides on her own and choses the possibility
that is the best for her. By doing this, she endangers her unborn daughter and thus she counteracts
her characteristics as nurturing and life producing.
In the novel, there is not described the situation where Lady Jessica is asked or offered to
undergo the rite. The reader is only informed that she will do it. So, her decision making is left
completely to her and it is hardly even mediated to the reader. The first instant, where the reader
gets familiar with the fact that she made a decision, is following dialog:
`Your son has been summoned from his rest, Sayyadina,' Stilgar said. `Do you wish him to
share in your decision?'
`Could he change my decision?'
`Certainly, the air with which you speak comes from your own lungs, but -'
`The decision stands,' she said. (402)
It is obvious from this quotation that the rite she will have to go through is dangerous, that is the
probable reason why Stilgar offers her a possibility to consult her decision with Paul. But what is
interesting, Paul cannot change her decision against her will, he can only give her an advice, but the
decision has to be her own. This is interesting difference between the traditional stereotype and the
situation in the Fremen culture. Lady Jessica chooses to make use of this tradition and takes it even
further by not discussing her decision with her son at all.
The value of the Reverend Mother has been implied in the paragraph on the fight in the desert. In
the quotation, Stilgar has said that the Reverend Mother's strength is `boundless' and so her value is
also eminent. This perception gets stronger during the beginning of the rite. Stilgar speaks to the
Fremen of the sietch, who have gathered in the great cavern:
`The Reverend Mother tells me she cannot survive another hajra,' Stilgar said. `We have
lived before without a Reverend Mother, but it is not good for people to seek a new home in
such straits.'
Now, the throng stirred, rippling with whispers and currents of disquiet.
`That this may not come to pass,' Stilgar said, `our new Sayyadina, Jessica of the Weirding,
has consented to enter the rite at this time. She will attempt to pass within that we not lose the
strength of our Reverend Mother.' (404)
The quotation shows that the image of long and probably very dangerous travel without a Reverend
Mother is very disquieting and depressive for the gathered Fremen. This disquiet very openly
implies the value and powers of a Reverend Mother, it is clear that the Fremen are aware of the
deep knowledge that a Reverend Mother gets during the rite. It is very similar to the process of
becoming the Reverend Mother of the Bene Gesserit that I have described in Chapter 4. During the
rite, the adept gets memories of all the Reverend Mothers that have preceded her. So, a Reverend
Mother in one moment acquires the store of knowledge of the whole tribe. And this knowledge may
appear essential during their travel to a new home. It needn't to be deduced from the reaction of the
gathered public because Stilgar admits it openly, too. So, the Reverend Mother's position in the
Fremen society is unique and Jessica's try to become the Reverend Mother, if completed
successfully, will bring her respect and safety with all the Fremen.
Lady Jessica does not know the concrete process of the rite, but she is aware of the danger that is
hidden in it. Stilgar speaks about it as about a try, therefore the possibility of failure is probably
quite high. And Jessica is pregnant for a few weeks so her unborn daughter is very vulnerable. Lady
Jessica is conscious of the danger after she have rejected consultation with Paul and she is aware
that "[t]here was an unborn daughter to think of as well. What endangered the flesh of the mother
endangered the flesh of the daughter" (402). She has not told the Fremen about her pregnancy
during the meeting in the desert, probably, there was no time to do it and moreover she would be
considered even weaker person and greater burden for the tribe. But she has not told Stilgar even
when she has decided to undergo the rite. This surely was the proper place and time to tell him and
this way she could protect her daughter's life as she, according to her Mother/Wife role, should. But
Lady Jessica drinks the Water of Life and thanks to her Bene Gesserit training she is able to change
poison in it into more or less harmless mind-expander. After the change, she gets connected with the
dying Reverend Mother who is horrified by Jessica's pregnancy. They both see unborn Alia by their
inner eyes:
The other mote darted wildly here, there, circling. It radiated pure terror.
`You'll have to be strong,' the old Reverend Mother's image-presence said. `Be thankful it's
a daughter you carry. This would've killed a male foetus. (410)
By drinking the Water of Life, Jessica has awakened her daughter far before her birth and scared her
almost to death. I think, she has not thought about the proportions of the danger before. She as a
fully mentally developed adult woman with the Bene Gesserit training was prepared for a change
that has come after drinking the Water of Life, but her daughter gets changed, too. And to her, it has
been done without any preparation and in a wrong time. Moreover, Jessica did not know the process
so she was unaware of the fact that it would kill `only' the male fetus, so the threat to her daughter's
life is very close Jessica realizes all these facts after accepting the old Reverend Mother's
knowledge and memories: "I did it, my poor, unformed, dear little daughter. I brought you into this
universe and exposed your awareness to all its varieties without any defences" (411). So after her
deed, she comes back to her Mother/Wife role, she comforts her daughter and stays in close contact
with her, but her decision to undergo the rite and take the risk of drinking the Water of Life goes
directly opposite nurturing and life-producing characteristics of the stereotypical role.
So together with her refusal to let Paul participate on her decision, which shows her activity and
opposes the feature of being driven, she once more reveals herself as counteracting the stereotypical
role of the Mother/Wife. She has not drank the Water of Life for her son's behalf as Jack Hand
argues in his article. She has done it to secure her own position among the Fremen. Paul was
perfectly safe at the moment she decided to go through the rite and thus the argument that "[she]
invites the dangers of the sandworm-derived water, not primarily for her own benefit, but in order to
consolidate Paul's position among the Fremen" (Hand 27) seems absurd to me. Paul's position is
stable almost from the first moment they meet the Fremen in the rocks in the desert, Lady Jessica is
the person in the danger. And becoming the Reverend Mother gives her shelter and respect, so she
herself has the greatest benefit from taking the Water of Life. The situation is very similar to the
fight with Stilgar, once more Jessica has to fight for herself to secure her position and life among
the Fremen.
Jessica as a parent of Paul is supposed to educate him, but after the run from the Harkonnens,
when he became a leader and Jessica followed him the roles have swapped. I would like to present
an example of Jessica educating Paul, and therefore, getting the dominant and active role. The
situation takes place between the fight in the desert and Jessica's change to the Reverend Mother. In
the desert, Paul shames one of the Fremens and later he has to meet him in the single combat. Paul
has easily won even though it was the first man he has ever killed. After the victory, everybody
praises him, but Jessica is conscious of the importance of that moment: "He has killed a man in
clear superiority of mind and muscle. He must not grow to enjoy such a victory" (352). She does not
want her son to enjoy killing people and so she decides to step in and remind him what he has just
She compressed ultimate scorn into her voice and manner, said: `We-l-l, now ­ how does it
feel to be a killer?'
Paul stiffened as though he had been struck. He met his mother's cold glare and his face
darkened with a rush of blood. (353)
Lady Jessica acts dominant and seemingly without sympathy for her son, but her utterance was
precisely aimed and it works out. Paul awakes from the euphoria and realizes all the consequences
of his deed. It is interesting that at this moment, he becomes again a small child that can be scold
and who is ashamed of his fault. That is in the opposition to the distribution of the roles after the run
from Harkonens and it makes Jessica, a woman, active and Paul, a man, passive. The stereotypical
roles are reversed for this moment.
Leto II is gone for good, except for OM. The "pearl" was just that; a miniscule portion of what Leto was, and not a compressed version of the whole. The pearl that the worms have do not make them Leto, or in any way similar to him.

D Pope
Posts: 1501
Joined: 14 May 2010 14:11
Location: Grubville

Re: Good Dune essays?

Postby D Pope » 10 Mar 2014 12:49

In the chapter on the stereotypes, I have discussed the issue of difference between male and
female helping. I would like to demonstrate that Lady Jessica does not fulfill this stereotypical
feature and helps his son by active advice rather than by supportive care. Her position of the advisor
is the most clear during the final assembly after the Fremen victory. She stands besides her son and
helps him to recognize people he has never seen before:
He leaned toward his mother, whispered: `That man to the left of the Reverend Mother, the
evil looking one ­ who is that?
Jessica looked, recognising the face from her Duke's dossiers. `Count Fenring,' she said.
It is clear, that she is an important source of information for him and that giving the information is
not traditional female mean of help. However, Lady Jessica becomes in the course of the gathering
even more active and gets more power. At the end, the Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV admits his
defeat, and agrees with Paul decision to marry the princess Irulan and this way get to the throne. He
asks who will represent Paul in negotiations about the conditions of the marriage and succession to
the throne. Paul appoints Lady Jessica and Chani to be the negotiators: "He dropped his arm, faced
his mother. `You will negotiate for me, Mother, with Chani by your side'" (561). This way, both the
women are given the great power and credit. So, once more, Lady Jessica helps her son in
absolutely non-female way and doing this she does not fit into her female stereotypical role.
In this chapter, I have proved that Lady Jessica was assigned the Mother/Wife role. In the novel,
there are scenes that picture her as passive in the relationships both with the Duke and with Paul,
and she is also shown as a good mother that is life producing and caring for her child. And as a
typical woman she is beautiful and pleasant. All these features together place Lady Jessica clearly
within the system of the stereotypical women roles. But there are also many instants where she
behaves in absolute opposite to these characteristics and on which she shows activity and power
that clearly are not in accordance with the stereotypes. First, I have focused on her decision to have
a son instead of a daughter and I have argued that she was motivated by the possibility to produce
the Kwisatz Haderach. Next, I have shown how she secured her place among the Fremen, first by
defeating Stilgar and then by drinking the Water of Life and thus becoming the Reverend Mother. In
both these situations she was active and making her decisions according to her own interests. She is
not driven by his son in these situations and moreover she educates him as a little boy. At the end,
she is his advisor and this way she helps Paul by her knowledge and advice, that means by typically
male tools. To sum it up, Lady Jessica can be easily classed within the system of the female
stereotypical roles, but at the same time, there are many situations, where she counteracts this role
and shows that her power and strength are much greater than it seems at first sight.
Princess Irulan
The character of the Royal princess Irulan, a daughter of the Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV,
represents the Bene Gesserit sisterhood in its another form. She is trained by her Bene Gesserit
mother and, as the oldest daughter, she is also prepared to become a wife of the next Padishah
Emperor. This way the Bene Gesserit planned to get more significant influence on the future
Padishah Emperor's judgments. But this plan is ruined by Paul, although Irulan becomes his wife,
her opinions are not supposed to have any impact on his decisions. In the book, she as a character
appears as late as on the assembly after the Fremen victory, but her name is known to the readers
from the first lines of the novel. Every chapter of the book starts with the excerpt from the book and
the princess Irulan is an author of the significant part of them. By this means, she is established as a
kind of a narrator and she accompanies the reader on his or her way throughout the story. In my
opinion, her role is much more significant than it may seem. First, I will explore the stereotypical
role that Irulan is clearly assigned and than I will show how she differs from this stereotype in some
scenes. These features of power and action are highlighted in John Harrison's film because the
character of the princess Irulan is developed here. This adaptation has given her a significantly
broader area to show herself and to act, in contrast, the Lynch's film has sticked to the novel much
closer. So in this chapter, I will use a lot of evidence and examples from the Harrison's film because
I would like to present the most complete image of the princess Irulan that is possible to create and
to show her as the character meeting the definition of the stereotype and also acting in the clear
opposition to it.
In my opinion, the princess Irulan can be classified as the Virgin within the system of the
stereotypical female roles that I have introduced in Chapter 2. The beauty, as the defining feature of
all the women in the literature, determines also the Virgin role, but in this case the beauty is
connected with purity, clarity and etherealness. The Virgin is worshiped in a spiritual way, she is
standing on a pedestal and all the people, especially men, look up to her. This worshiping forces her
to the passivity that is shared by all the women's roles. So, similarly to the other females, the Virgin
is expected to stay absolutely passive and to not make any decisions. She is interested in spiritual
things and ways and she is pure in her thoughts and deeds. Also her sexuality is defined by this
purity because she is very often considered to be asexual. All the above mentioned characteristics
reveal themselves in the role of the princess Irulan. In the following paragraphs, I will illustrate
them using examples from the book or the films.
The first characteristic I would like to focus on is a beauty. Being beautiful is one of the
attributes that are shared by the majority of the female characters. In the case of the princess Irulan,
who is assigned to the Virgin role, the beauty is influenced also by her other characteristic features
as innocence, purity and also a kind of superiority. The notion of superiority is created by the
relations of all the other people to the Virgin, by their worshiping and putting her onto the pedestal
she becomes untouchable and superior. Thus her appearance could be very often described as
beautiful, but also cold to a certain extent. In the novel, the princess Irulan is described twice, for
the first time through the eyes of the evil Baron Harkonnen and for the second time by Paul. Both
the descriptions are very close with minuscule differences, so I will quote only Paul, who is seeing
her for the first time at the beginning of the final gathering: "a tall blonde woman, green-eyed, a
face of patrician beauty, classic in its hauteur, untouched by tears, completely undefeated. Without
being told it, Paul knew her ­ princess Royal, Bene Gesserit-trained" (544). Paul admits Irulan's
beauty openly and he also calls it patrician. The majesty of her social status is printed also in her
physical features and it is emphasized by her tallness because the people have to look up to her. She
is superior all the time without the need to stand on the actual pedestal. The description clearly
introduces her as a cold and untouchable person, without any feelings. She does not seem to be
connected with the real world because the defeat of her father does not influenced her at all. She has
to now that her life may be in danger, but she is not weeping or showing the emotions in a different
way. So even her visage implies the features of spirituality as opposite to the real worldly life and
bears the characteristics of beauty and purity, but also coldness and superiority which all together
characterize the Virgin role.
The second feature I would like to concentrate on is a passivity, which is also shared by the
majority of the female characters. As I have already mentioned in the previous chapters, the
passivity is the basic quality that defines almost all the women in the literary works or in the films.
The princess Irulan is forced to passivity mostly by her father, the Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV.
In the book, their relationship and his opinions on her do not reveal, but John Harrison in his
miniseries created several scenes that offer a deeper look onto them. In the first of them, the
Padishah Emperor, who watches his daughter dancing, openly admits that "she lacks primacy of
[the male] gender" and that he has to marry her well to get a suitable successor on the throne. From
the precise formulation of his thoughts can be easily deduced that he considers Irulan's opinion on
marriage or on her future husband irrelevant and that he does not expect any activity from her. He
regards her as a puppet and in concordance with this apprehension he sends her on the House
Atreides' dinner on Arrakis "as a token of [his] love" that he does not feel. And to strengthen the
notion of passivity she is forced by her guards to leave Arrakis in the middle of the dance with Paul.
The captain of the guards explains to her that "[her] father left strict orders" and in comparison with
them her wish to stay is insignificant. These scenes clearly show the passivity the princess Irulan is
determined to and that corresponds with her stereotypical role.
Now, I would like to focus on the qualities that are characteristic for the Virgin role. The first one
I will mention is spirituality. I have described that even the physical appearance of the princess
Irulan, as described in the book and also as shown in both film adaptations, implies spirituality
rather than interest in the everyday life. She is described as Bene Gesserit-trained and that suggests
a deep mind training and an interest in religion. Her education is probably very good because of her
social status. She is shown dancing under led of the Reverend Mother Mohiam and she is also very
fond of books. In Harrison's film, she is holding the book in the great majority of the scenes where
she appears. Her father says that "her ambitions tend to be more literary than political" and he is
obviously disappointed by her field of interests. The reader of the original book gets the knowledge
about Irulan's interest in the literature from the excerpts from her books at the beginning of every
chapter and it is also highlighted by Lady Jessica at the end of the book. In her speech to Chani that
closes the whole story she informs: "They say she has pretensions of a literary nature" (562). I think
that Irulan's spirituality, which characterizes her Virgin role, is shown through her involvement in
the literature and it is emphasized by her connection with the Bene Gesserit.
Traditionally, the woman in the Virgin role is considered to be nonsexual. Her asexuality is
defined by her purity and innocence and it also gave this role its name. Not every woman assigned
to the Virgin role is a virgin in a literal meaning of the word, but the princess Irulan is highly
probable to be the Virgin in all the meanings of the term. At the end of the final gathering, when the
wedding is arranged, Paul promises Chani: "that princess shall have no more of me than my name.
No child of mine nor touch nor softness of glance, nor instant of desire" (562). It can be taken for
granted that Irulan, being an heiress of the ruler of this medieval-like society, is a virgin before her
wedding with Paul and from his words it could be deduced that she will stay a virgin even in the
marriage. She is treated as an absolutely asexual being or object and the future state of things is
summarized in Lady Jessica's utterance that ends the novel, she says to Chani: "that princess will
have the name, yet she'll live as less than a concubine ­ never to know a moment of tenderness
from the man to whom she's bound" (562). So it clearly stands out that Irulan's sexuality will be
reduced and she is and will be regarded as a `key to the throne' rather than sexual object by Paul.
Her lonesome future is suggested more significantly at the end of the Harrison's adaptation. She is
standing alone in the middle of the great hall of the palace on Arrakis and Paul comes to her, looks
on her and then continues to Chani who he kisses. The princess is left to herself in the darkening
room and the next shot presents a typical Hollywood ending with Paul and Chani going hand in
hand towards the desert sunset. So also this ending documents Irulan's position in the sexual and
emotional relationship with Paul.
The stereotypes about female characters in literature and film are very strong and I think I have
depicted the princess Irulan's beauty, purity and passivity as well as her orientation to the spiritual
rather than to the real world. The last characteristic feature I have focused on was her asexuality as
it is defined by her relationship with Paul. Therefore, in my opinion, it is transparent that the
princess Irulan belongs to the category of the Virgin within the scheme introduced in Chapter 2, but
I argue that, at the same time, she opposes the definition of this category and that her character has
to be studied closer and more carefully to get true image and reveal her power.
First, I would like to study Irulan as a narrator because I think that by this means she gets power
that is not supposed to be in the hands of the woman according to the stereotypes. The second
situation I will focus on is her decision to become Paul's wife in order to prevent further fights and
devastation of the universe. It is her decision and it actually makes her active and opposing her
father. These two moments are included in the book and also in the both adaptations, but I will
explore also the princess Irulan's secret plans and orders and also her brilliant orientation in politics
and people's motivations that are depicted in the Harrison's miniseries. I think they will
complement the image I am trying to present.
The role of a narrator is crucial for every literary work or film. He tells the story from his point
of view and this way he gets an enormous impact on the perception of the reader or viewer which
gives him tremendous power. The princess Irulan cannot be classified as a classic narrator because
she does not narrate the whole story. The extracts from her books only introduce the individual parts
or chapters of Dune, but nevertheless, she influences the reader's point of view to the great extent
because the majority of the readers tends to read the chapters with the focus on the things
mentioned in the passage from the Irulan's book. Thus, the princess Irulan is given the power to
direct the readers attention to the desired aim and she also is, in a way, one step further than the
reader because she evidently knows what will come next. So this role gives her a power over reader
which is not in accordance with the stereotype. In the David Lynch's film the situation is very
similar, she is the first character the viewer sees in the film and she introduces the society and also
the background of the story and she explains such a complicated things as the Bene Gesserit
breeding program. Her role was even strengthened during the extensive cutting because she has to
explain the things that were originally included in the film, but they must be cut out. In the
Harrison's adaptation, there is only her voice to explain and introduce, but at least this way, her role
of a kind of narrator is preserved.
As I have already mentioned, the main occasion where the princess Irulan appears in person in
the original novel is the final gathering. There, she decides to get married with Paul and even
though her father is against the marriage at the beginning, she convinces him: "The Emperor turned
a stricken look upon his daughter. She touched his arm, spoke soothingly: `For this I was trained,
Father'" (561). Clearly, she is much more aware of all the possible consequences of her refusal to
become Paul's legal wife than the Emperor himself and so, the decision is made by her. Doing so,
she actively participates on creating her future and opposes the stereotypical passivity. The David
Lynch's film deals with this situation in the approximately same way, but the Harrison's adaptation
of this scene is much more interesting. It gives Irulan more space and she is considerably more
active there. In the novel, Paul presents his wish to marry the princess and to get the throne by these
words: "Majesty, we both know the way out of our difficulty" (549). The offer is not very polite or
emphatic but it is highly intelligible in the given context. In the Harrison's adaptation, these words
are uttered by the princess Irulan, so there, she is not only deciding about herself, she is also the
author of the solution and that means much more activity than she, as a woman, is allowed to retain
according to the stereotypes. The princess Irulan's activity is presented also during the dinner on
Arrakis, when she comes to speak with Paul who left the table without any excuse. She is so active
that she asks him, whether they will dance, instead of waiting for his proposal. At the end of the
discussion, when she is forced to leave by her guards, Paul tries to appease the tensed situation by
announcing that the princess was under his protection. Irulan reacts: "Oh, please!!!" and her tone is
highly disgusted and touched. Obviously, she did not expect Paul to patronize her and she does not
see any need for him to do so. So, her independence and activity is widened in the Harrison's film
and her contradicting the stereotypical characteristics is emphasized. It is clear, that Irulan's
passivity, as the key feature of the female representation in literature and film, is opposed by her in
the last scene of all the versions and in some other scenes in Harrison's miniseries.
I have described spirituality as a defining quality of the Virgin role and opposed it to the
orientation in the real world. According to this premise, the princess Irulan reads and writes books,
dances, or is trained in the Bene Gesserit ways. All these employments represent the spiritual sphere
of the life, but in the Harrison's adaptation, Irulan also gives orders to her chamber maid, travels on
Geidi Prime, Harkonnens' home planet, to get the information about the Harkonnens' attack on
Arrakis and argues with her father about politics. And these activities cannot be considered as
spiritual. So, there are other situations in which the princess Irulan is active, and shows her interest
in the real world things and also in politics that is reserved for men in the world of Dune.
First, I would like to analyze Irulan's plans and giving the orders. After the attack on Arrakis,
during which all members of the House Atreides were supposed to die, the princess is disgusted by
her father. He refuses to admit his participation in the aggression and therefore she sends her
chamber maid to Geidi Prime to charm the Harkonnen heir, Feyd-Rautha, and to get the information
about the attack. This mission is completely secret and from the scene of giving orders is obvious
that the maid is used to realize any princess' command without the question. So, the authority of the
princess Irulan is depicted there. Several scenes later, she even dares to organize a trip to Geidi
Prime for herself because the information she gets from the servant are not complete and she wants
to speak with Feyd herself and thus learn more details. It is obviously done without the Emperor's
permission because he gets very angry when he uncovers it. So the princess Irulan's secret plans
and machinations are relatively venturous and in them she clearly reveals her active behavior and
interest in politics.
Irulan's intelligence and not only interest in politics but also a good insight in it are illustrated by
her discussion with the Emperor and his advisor, Count Fenring. Count and the Emperor are
speaking about the problems with the spice production and also about Harkonnen cruel reign on
Arrakis. The princess Irulan steps into the discussion and she foreshadows her explanation of the
reasons of cruelty and the great pressure on the people on Arrakis. The viewer knows that her
interpretation is absolutely precise because the plan was explained by the Baron Harkonnen in one
of the preceding scenes. The Emperor does not believe her, but Count Fenring persuades him to
order the Baron Hakonnen to visit him. Fenring is obviously surprised by the knowledge that Irulan
has shown and tells her: "Your Highness has a perceptive mind." This way he gives her a credit of
rationality and orientation in real life situations and politics that are stereotypically restricted to men
In this chapter, I have focused on the princess Irulan who has been assigned the Virgin role. I
have proven that she is described as a beautiful woman with a notion of purity and superiority about
her. As a traditional female character she is passive and oriented towards the spiritual part of life.
Her orientation manifest itself as an interest in literature and the Bene Gesserit education and her
sexuality is also influenced by it. She is considered to be a nonsexual being, which is connected also
with her purity and innocence. All these characteristics have proven that she has the Virgin role, but
I have also argued and demonstrated that Irulan, similarly to Lady Jessica, counteracts the assigned
role. First, she is a kind of the narrator of the story and this way she influences the focus of the
readers. In the films, this role was retained and in the Lynch's adaptation it was widened and so her
impact on the viewer was amplified. In the story itself, she shows her independence and activity by
choosing her future and deciding to marry Paul. This feature was highlighted in the Harrison's
adaptation because his Irulan proposes this solution of the crises. Moreover, she is depicted there as
having their own plans and with a very good insight into the politics. In conclusion, the character of
the princess Irulan can easily be characterized by the stereotypical role of the Virgin, but at the same
time I have proven that her intelligence, activity and influence on readers are far greater than they
are supposed to be according to the stereotypes.
The last female character I will focus on is Chani, Paul's Fremen lover and the mother of his son.
As I have already foreshadowed in the preceding chapter, she is the woman who has Paul's
affection and interest and can be contrasted to the princess Irulan. Jack Hand, in his article, sums the
opposition: "The princess becomes, in fact, a major historian of and apologist for Paul's actions,
while Chani remains the center of his emotional life" (Hand 28). This difference is revealed also in
the different stereotypical roles both women are assigned. Irulan's Virgin role defined by purity,
coldness and asexuality is opposed to Chani's Mother/Wife role defined by comforting and
nurturing. At the beginning of this chapter, I will analyze the character of Chani and prove that she
possesses some of the qualities that stereotypically characterize the Mother/Wife role. In the
following paragraphs of this part of my work, I will focus on the scenes where Chani counteracts
the traditional stereotypes, especially by her active behavior. But first of all, I will focus on the
Fremen society because the character of Chani is defined in this context and not within the official
society of the Empire.
My study will show that the position of women among the Fremen does not differ so much from
their position in the society described in the Chapter 3. The dominance is not so absolute as in the
common society of the Empire, but it is still prevailing. Hand argues that: "[w]omen may fight
alongside men at times in Fremen culture, but there is no question of equality" (Hand 28). The
participation of females in military actions is illustrated by Chani during the fight in the desert
scene. She is the member of the Fremen troop that meets Paul and his mother in the rocks, and
obviously, they are coming back from an unspecified military action. Therefore, she seems to be
equal to all of the other fighters in the group. But this impression is destroyed during the mourning
ceremony for Jamis, the Fremen that Paul had to kill in the single combat. Before the ceremony
starts: "Chani glided back to Jessica's side, took her hand. `Come Sayyadina. We must sit apart'"
(360). Clearly, the women are not allowed to participate fully in this ritual, so, the notion of equality
vanishes slowly and it is absolutely destroyed after the arrival of the troop to the sietch. Paul meets
there a strange woman who is Harah the wife of Jamis. Stilgar says to him: "Usul, it's our way that
you've now the responsibility for Jamis' woman and for his two sons. His yali ... his quarters, are
yours. His coffee service is yours ... and this, his woman" (395). So, the woman is considered to be
at the same level as a coffee service and an apartment. Even though the Fremen's way may be
designed to protect the woman whose husband was killed, still, it lowers her to the level of the
property without the feelings or the reason of her own. Similarly to the society of the Empire, the
Fremen woman can be manipulated with and she is supposed to be passive subject to the man's
decisions. So, the equality of the females and their independence is only occasional and has only
slight influence on the basis of the Fremen society.
Chani can be classified within the same system of the stereotypical roles as Jessica and Irulan.
She is depicted as passive and submissive in her relationship with Paul because he makes very often
the decisions concerning her and does not even ask her for her opinion. She can be also described as
a life producing and nurturing. And she also takes care of the household and food, which is the
important part of the wife's tasks. All these characteristics, I will illustrate by concrete scenes from
the novel in the following paragraphs, assign Chani to the Mother/Wife role.
First, I would like to focus on the passivity, the traditional defining feature of all the female
stereotypical roles. Chani is portrayed as passive and obedient and she is driven behind Paul, her
partner. It can be demonstrated by the scene after the treacherous Sardaukar attack, that endangered
both her and her lover. Paul sends Chani to the other sietch, deeper in the desert, with a message to
his mother, who he wants to come to him:
`I shall return with your mother,' Chani said.
`Send her,' Paul said. `[...] I am stronger when you are safe. You will remain in the sietch.'
She started to protest, swallowed it. (488)
Clearly, Chani prefers to stay with Paul or, more precisely, to come back to him, but her wish is not
important. According to Paul, she will be safer in the other sietch and thus she has to depart there.
She does not even try to protest. Obviously she wants to, but probably, she gets to know very
quickly that it is useless. So, even though Paul gives her a great credit by appointing her his secret
messenger, she is quickly put into the appropriately passive and obedient role by his decision to
keep her in the safety.
Another characteristics that defines the Mother/Wife role is a life producing and nurturing.
Similarly to Lady Jessica, Chani gives birth to a child and this way she displays her ability to
produce and nourish a new life. At the beginning of the Book III of Dune, Paul, during his
awakening to the full consciousness, retrospects some of the situations that have happened: "Yet
Chani was deep in the south ­ in the cold country where the sun was hot ­ secreted in one of the
new sietch strongholds, safe with their son, Leto II" (439). From this part of the text, the reader gets
the knowledge of Chani producing an Atreides heir and through it, she gets the status of the Mother.
So, categorizing the character of Chani as assigned to the Mother/Wife role is transparent.
One of the Mother/Wife's basic tasks is preparing and serving food because she is responsible
for securing enough nourishment not only for her children but also for her husband. Apparently,
Chani complies with this demand successfully because during his half-dreaming Paul recollects:
"Chani prepared the meal for me" (438). Her ability to take care of her partner's needs is revealed
as early as the first Paul's evening in the sietch. After they come to the shelter, she helps Paul to
accommodate in the new setting: "`Find a place to rest and stay out of the way, child-man,' Chani
said. `Here's food.' She pressed two leaf-wrapped morsels into his hand" (334). She is not his
partner yet, but still, she provides him with the food and cares about him. Therefore, she has another
quality that define the Mother/Wife role. Together with her passivity and life producing abilities,
they clearly prove that she has been assigned to this stereotypical role.
The last excerpt, I have quoted in the previous paragraph, can be seen also from another point of
view. Chani may be seen as Paul's teacher because she tells him how to behave and doing so she
presents to him the traditional Fremen ways. So, Chani is teaching her man and thus she clearly
contrasts the stereotype of passivity and submission towards the husband. Paul learns a lot from her
and therefore her power over him is expanded to a degree that opposes the stereotypical
Mother/Wife role. This opposition can be further illustrated by the scene from the novel, in which
they are traveling to the sietch from the rocks in the desert, where they have met: "Paul wiped
sweat-caked dust from his forehead, felt a tug at his arm, heard Chani's voice hissing: `Do as I told
you: bring the fold of your hood down over your forehead! Leave only the eyes exposed. You waste
moisture'" (392). In this quotations, Chani's domination over Paul is obvious, moreover, she is not
only instructing him, but also correcting his mistakes. She clearly has the greater knowledge of the
life in the desert and through her lessons she transmits it to Paul. Via her lessons she becomes a
teacher and that position brings her an authority over Paul and also over the reader because the
Fremen laws and customs are unknown to him or her, too. In the Lynch's film, this part of Chani's
role is absolutely erased and she is presented there only as a beautiful and devoted lover. On the
contrary, in the Harrison's adaptation, there are more scenes where she introduces Paul to the desert
life and to the Fremen plans. In my opinion, the most important one takes place in the desert, where
she explains to him the connection between the sandworm and the spice. After her lecturing, Paul
says: "The worm is the spice." And she answers: " So, now, you know." She seems to be content
because the knowledge has been passed successfully. And also this scene shows her as the active
one because she is telling him and he is absorbing it. So, the stereotypically female passivity and the
traditionally male activity are swapped and distributed contrariwise. All these examples of Chani in
the position of a teacher illustrate her activity and more importantly also the dominance over Paul.
Doing this, she counteracts the given stereotype of the Mother/Wife role and shows that even
though she can be easily classed within the system of the female stereotypical roles, her character is
much more complex and should be analyzed more carefully.
Teaching Paul is not the only activity that is inappropriate for Chani according to the
stereotypical role she is assigned. She also protects Paul from his dreams and from the people, too.
In the first case, her defense of him is very close to easing his fears. She supports him and by this
means she gives him a hope that his horrifying visions are not precisely true. This support can be
categorized as "comforting/healing" that is one of the defining features of the Mother/Wife role,
however, these scenes show Chani as stronger than Paul and thus damage the notion of his
superiority and her obedience. So, their final impact depends on the personality of the reader or the
viewer. But the scene, where Chani protects Paul with a knife in her hand, implies clearly her
independence and activity. In the book, it takes place in the corridor of the sietch, in front of their
living quarters:
`Chani, what is this?' he asked.
`I dispatched one who came to challenge you in single combat, Usul.'
`You killed him?'
`Yes.' [...]
`But he came to challenge me!'
`You trained me yourself in the weirding way, Usul.'
`Certainly! But you shouldn't -' [...]
`He was not worthy, Usul,' Chani said. (439-40)
So, Chani has not only fought to protect Paul, she has also killed a man who came to meet him in
the single combat. By stepping between them, Chani has influenced ritual with given rules. She has
not broken them because she prevented the other man from challenging Paul, but her interference is
significant. She has decided herself, without asking Paul, and she acted, both of these counteract the
given stereotype. It is very interesting that Paul tries to protest against this behavior and he
obviously wants to fight his combats himself, but his objections are silenced. He is the person who
surrenders to Chani's arguments at the end of the dialog. The situation is very similar to the debate
of the Duke Leto and Lady Jessica about the bull's head. There Jessica have tried to object her
partner's decision and was unsuccessful however in this dialog Paul, man, is defeated. So, this
situation shows enormous power that is given to Chani, she does not only decide about herself, she
also makes decisions about Paul and he resigns to it. Harrison, in his adaptation of Dune, included
this scene even though it takes place in the desert camp, in front of the Paul's tent. But the scene is
shortened and the argumentation is missing there. So, Chani is active and she protects Paul there,
too, but the implications of her making a decision about Paul are not so strong and thus she is not
becoming so independent. But the basic notion of her counteracting the passivity and submission to
her partner is clear even in this version.
The last situation that I would like to analyze is a part of the scene in the desert, where Paul and
Lady Jessica are accepted among the Fremen. As I have remarked earlier in my work, Chani is
among the men in the troop and she meets Paul there for the first time. But their first confrontation
is a surprise for Paul, because after his mother tells him to come down from the rocks, where he has
hidden after her attack on Stilgar, he finds out that he has not been hiding alone:
Paul stood up, emerging into moonlight above his concealing cleft, slipped the Fremen
weapon back into his sash. As he turned, another figure arose from the rocks to face him.
In the moonlight and reflection off grey stone, Paul saw a small figure in Fremen robes, a
shadowed face peering out at him from the hood, and the muzzle of one of the projectile
weapons aimed at him from a fold of robe.
`I am Chani, daughter of Liet.'
The voice was lilting, half filled with laughter.
`I would not have permitted you to harm my companions,' she said. (329-30)
Chani's dominance reveals itself in this scene very clearly. She has surprised Paul, which devalues
his abilities as a warrior and as a Bene Gesserit-trained person, too. So, Chani is better in the field
that is usually dedicated to men. Moreover, she has a weapon aiming at him and seems to be very
amused by Paul's behavior. The last sentence from the quotation definines the relationship of their
positions in this scene most precisely: If he wanted to do something, he would have to have a
permission from her. Obviously, such a great power over man's decisions and deeds is not in
accordance with any female stereotypical role. The scene was used in the Lynch's film with only
minuscule variations, but Harrison has made some changes in the dialog, and doing so, he has given
Chani even greater power over Paul in comparison to the original novel. After they both have stood
up, Chani shouts to Stilgar and Lady Jessica: "He's here," and after a pause she adds: "He's
unharmed. We're coming down." Using these words she once more makes decision about him,
because she reveals his position in the rocks without his permission. And she also informs about his
safety as it would be her concern. To sum it up, this scene shows Chani's dominance over Paul in
the all versions of Dune. Her behavior clearly opposes the traditional distribution of the power
between the Mother/Wife and her partner.
This chapter has described the position of the women in the Fremen society. At the glance, they
are more equal to their man, but further study has uncovered that their activities are limited
similarly to the actions of the women in the official imperial society. In this context, I have argued
that Chani is assigned the Mother/Wife role, which manifests itself by Chani's passivity and
obedience in her relationship to Paul. She is also characterized by her motherhood and by preparing
Paul food. All the evidence supports my argument, and thus, I can conclude that Chani can be
categorized within the system of the female stereotypical roles without difficulties. But, similarly to
the other female characters, I have already studied, there are instances in the book or in the films,
where she shows features that oppose this systematic categorization. In this chapter, she has been
presented when teaching and protecting Paul and in the last mentioned scene, she shows a kind of
physical superiority. So, as well as the other females, the character of Chani has had to be analyzed
in detail to get true and precise image.
In the following paragraphs, I would like to summarize the significant points of my work and
present the outcomes of the analysis of the female characters in Frank Herbert's Dune. In addition to
the original novel, I have used both existing film adaptations, which were directed by David Lynch
and John Harrison, to complement the image of the women presented in the primary work and this
way to create as complete picture as possible.
The first part of my work consists of the chapters that create a theoretical basis for the study of
particular woman characters. There, I have described the complicated procedure from the first
Herbert`s thoughts about a sci-fi novel, through the publication of the book and various attempts to
film it, to the two successful film adaptations. The novel is special because of the multiple layers
that allow plenty of different readings and this uniqueness has complicated the story's way to the
readers and later to the viewers, too. One of the possible threads, reader can follow, are the roles of
women. In the Chapter 2, I have described the system of the stereotypical female roles and their
defining features that consists of four categories: the Mother/Wife, the Old Maid, the Virgin and the
Seductress. This scheme has allowed me to prove easily that all the characters under study fit in
these stereotypes, and so, it has given me a basis for argumentation.
I have introduced the world of Dune as male-dominated and have proven that the females are
strictly limited in their activities there. So at first sight, Herbert has created highly stereotypical
world, that is hostile to the women and the relatively scarce female characters are acting only within
the given roles. There are only two places, where they are allowed to fulfill themselves: within their
household and by participation in the Bene Gesserit. The second possibility equips them with
abilities and techniques that gives them power over themselves and also over the other people and
by this means it helps them to cope with the dominance of men.
In each of the last three chapters that are devoted to the particular female characters, Lady
Jessica, the princess Irulan and Chani, I have proceeded along the similar line. First, I have explored
which one of the stereotypical roles is the character assigned and I have tried to support my
opinions by the scenes, where they reveal the qualities that are considered to be characteristic for
the given role. Doing this, I have proven that Lady Jessica and Chani are the Mothers/Wives and the
princess Irulan is the Virgin. But the main argument of my thesis is that this classification can be
done only on the surface and that by the deeper study can be revealed that the powers and influence
of the women are greater than these roles allow. So, in the second part of each chapter, I have
described scenes, in which the particular female role counteracts its given role and this way it
damages the stereotype and shows her strength. I have shown all of them in the situations that are
absolutely unthinkable for their position and very often behaving in the clear opposition to the
qualities that define their stereotypical roles. So the main aim of my work, to show the women from
Dune as characters and not only stereotypes and to illustrate their real powers, have been
The last think, I would like to mention, is the difference between the two adaptations. Comparing
the two films was not the aim of my work, but during the analysis some of their features appeared.
In Lynch's film, the female characters have been limited. Lynch was following the book very
closely, when creating the women characters and so in the particular scenes there is not so many
differences. Except the character of Chani, that has been detracted of all her equality and
intelligence and lowered to a simple lover. But the great number of scenes was cut out and this way
mostly the stereotypical features of the women stayed in the film. On contrary, in Harrison's
miniseries, the story and its characters have been developed and therefore also the women got more
space and more important roles. The character of the princess Irulan benefited the most from this
development because there was introduced a number of scenes during the whole film that show her
as intelligent and powerful. So, the Harrison's adaptation can be described as more open to the
women, but I would not like to judge the reasons of this difference.
I believe that my work brings a new view of the roles of women in Dune, which is supported by
well-chosen arguments. And I hope, I have presented the novel as an interesting piece of literature
and doing this inspired the reader to get to the original book or one of the film adaptation and
discover its other layers.
Works cited
"Bene Gesserit." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 22 Jan. 2006. 24 Jan. 2006.
Cowie, Elizabeth. "The Popular Film as a Progressive Text ­ a Discussion of Coma." Penley,
Constance, ed. Feminism and Film Theory. New York: Routledge, 1988.104-140.
Crosbie, Lynn. "Girls on film." Flare. Oct. 2006: 146.
DiTommaso, Lorenzo. "History and Historical Effect in Frank Herbert's Dune." Science Fiction
Studies 19.3 (Nov. 1992): 79 pars. 30 Mar. 2007
Dune ­ Behind the Scenes. 12 Mar. 2007. 21 Mar. 2007.
Encyklopédia Duny. "Knihy." Compiler Historik. 8 Jan. 2007. 24 Mar. 2007.
"Frank Herbert." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 19 Mar. 2007. 20 Mar. 2007
Fritz, Steve. "DUNE: Remaking the Classic Novel." Mania TV (4 Dec. 2000): 27 pars.
21 Mar. 2007
Gatullina, Lily. "Stereotypes In Media." Student paper. Bryn Mawr College. 26 Feb. 2007
Hand, Jack. "The Traditionalism of Women's Roles in Frank Herbert's Dune." Extrapolation.
Spring 1985: 24-28.
Haskell, Molly. From reverence To Rape. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1987.
Herbert, Frank. Afterword. Chapterhouse: Dune. By Herbert. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1986.
Usul's homepage. 21 Mar. 2007.
- - -. Dune. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1968.
- - -. "Dune Genesis." Omni July 1980. The Official Dune Website. 20 Mar. 2007. 21 Mar. 2007.
- - -. Interview with Paul Turner. Vertex Oct. 1973. 21 Mar. 2007
Herbert, F., Br. Herbert, and K. J. Anderson. The Road to Dune. London: Hodder and Stroughton,
Jodorowsky, Alejandro. "Dune: The Film You Will Never See." Trans of "Dune le film que vous ne
verrez jamais." Métal Hurlant January 1985. 68 pars.
Lupo, Marc. "Female Stereotypes In A Man's Perspective." Home page. 8 Mar. 2007
Mulvey. Laura. "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema." Penley, Constance, ed. Feminism and
Film Theory. New York: Routledge, 1988. 57-68.
The Official Dune Website. "The Dune Novels Chronology." 24 Mar. 2007. 24 Mar. 2007.
O'Reilly, Timothy. Frank Herbert. New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co, 1981. 12 Apr. 2006
Penley, Constance, ed. "Lady Doesn't Vanish: Feminism and Film Theory." Introduction. Feminism
and Film Theory. New York: Routledge, 1988. 1-24.
Ransom, Bill. Foreword. The Road to Dune. By Frank Herbert, Brian Herbert and Kevin J.
Anderson. New York: Tor Books, 2005. 1-5.
Savitt, Jill D. "Female Stereotypes in Literature (With a Focus on Latin American Writers)."
Curriculum units of Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute Vol.V (1982): 20 pars. 26 Feb. 2007

Leto II is gone for good, except for OM. The "pearl" was just that; a miniscule portion of what Leto was, and not a compressed version of the whole. The pearl that the worms have do not make them Leto, or in any way similar to him.

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Re: Good Dune essays?

Postby inhuien » 27 May 2014 07:16

I believe this is quoted as a source in the essay above.

Dune Genesis, By Frank Herbert, Published Omni Magazine - July 1980

Dune began with a concept whose mostly unfleshed images took shape across about six years of research and one and a half years of writing. The story was all in my head until it appeared on paper as I typed it out.

How did it evolve? I conceived of a long novel, the whole trilogy as one book about the messianic convulsions that periodically overtake us. Demagogues, fanatics, con-game artists, the innocent and the not-so-innocent bystanders-all were to have a part in the drama. This grows from my theory that superheroes are disastrous for humankind. Even if we find a real hero (whatever-or whoever-that may be), eventually fallible mortals take over the power structure that always comes into being around such a leader.

Personal observation has convinced me that in the power area of politics/economics and in their logical consequence, war, people tend to give over every decision-making capacity to any leader who can wrap himself in the myth fabric of the society. Hitler did it. Churchill did it. Franklin Roosevelt did it. Stalin did it. Mussolini did it.

My favorite examples are John F. Kennedy and George Patton. Both fitted themselves into the flamboyant Camelot pattern, consciously assuming bigger-than-life appearance. But the most casual observation reveals that neither was bigger than life. Each had our common human ailment-clay feet.

This, then, was one of my themes for Dune: 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. And sometimes you run into another problem.

It is demonstrable that power structures tend to attract people who want power for the sake of power and that a significant proportion of such people are imbalanced-in a word, insane.

That was the beginning. Heroes are painful, superheroes are a catastrophe. The mistakes of superheroes involve too many of us in disaster.

It is the systems themselves that I see as dangerous Systematic is a deadly word. Systems originate with human creators, with people who employ them. Systems take over and grind on and on. They are like a flood tide that picks up everything in its path. How do they originate?

All of this encapsulates the stuff of high drama, of entertainment-and I'm in the entertainment business first. It's all right to include a pot of message, but that's not the key ingredient of wide readership. Yes, there are analogs in Dune of today's events-corruption and bribery in the highest places, whole police forces lost to organized crime, regulatory agencies taken over by the people they are supposed to regulate. The scarce water of Dune is an exact analog of oil scarcity. CHOAM is OPEC.

But that was only the beginning.

While this concept was still fresh in my mind, I went to Florence, Oregon, to write a magazine article about a US Department of Agriculture project there. The USDA was seeking ways to control coastal (and other) sand dunes. I had already written several pieces about ecological matters, but my superhero concept filled me with a concern that ecology might be the next banner for demagogues and would-be-heroes, for the power seekers and others ready to find an adrenaline high in the launching of a new crusade.

Our society, after all, operates on guilt, which often serves only to obscure its real workings and to prevent obvious solutions. An adrenaline high can be just as addictive as any other kind of high.

Ecology encompasses a real concern, however, and the Florence project fed my interest in how we inflict ourselves upon our planet. I could begin to see the shape of a global problem, no part of it separated from any other-social ecology, political ecology, economic ecology. It's an open-ended list.

Even after all of the research and writing, I find fresh nuances in religions, psychoanalytic theories, linguistics, economics, philosophy, plant research, soil chemistry, and the metalanguages of pheromones. A new field of study rises out of this like a spirit rising from a witch's cauldron: the psychology of planetary societies.

Out of all this came a profound reevaluation of my original concepts. In the beginning I was just as ready as anyone to fall into step, to seek out the guilty and to punish the sinners, even to become a leader. Nothing, I felt, would give me more gratification than riding the steed of yellow journalism into crusade, doing the book that would right the old wrongs.

Reevaluation raised haunting questions. I now believe that evolution, or deevolution, never ends short of death, that no society has ever achieved an absolute pinnacle, that all humans are not created equal. In fact, I believe attempts to create some abstract equalization create a morass of injustices that rebound on the equalizers. Equal justice and equal opportunity are ideals we should seek, but we should recognize that humans administer the ideals and that humans do not have equal ability.

Reevaluation taught me caution. I approached the problem with trepidation. Certainly, by the loosest of our standards there were plenty of visible targets, a plethora of blind fanaticism and guilty opportunism at which to aim painful barbs.

But how did we get this way? What makes a Nixon? What part do the meek play in creating the powerful? If a leader cannot admit mistakes, these mistakes will be hidden. Who says our leaders must be perfect? Where do they learn this?

Enter the fugue. In music, the fugue is usually based on a single theme that is played many different ways. Sometimes there are free voices that do fanciful dances around the interplay. There can be secondary themes and contrasts in harmony, rhythm, and melody. From the moment when a single voice introduces the primary theme, however, the whole is woven into a single fabric.

What were my instruments in this ecological fugue? Images, conflicts, things that turn upon themselves and become something quite different, myth figures and strange creatures from the depths of our common heritage, products of our technological evolution, our human desires, and our human fears.

You can imagine my surprise to learn that John Schoenherr, one of the world's most foremost wildlife artists and illustrators, had been living in my head with the same images. People find it difficult to believe that John and I had no consultations prior to his painting of the Dune illustrations. I assure you that the paintings were a wonderful surprise to me.

The Sardaukar appear like the weathered stones of Dune. The Baron's paunch could absorb a world. The ornithopters are insects preying on the land. The sandworms are Earth shipworms grown monstrous. Stilgar glares out at us with the menace of a warlock.

What especially pleases me is to see the interwoven themes, the fuguelike relationships of images that exactly replay the way Dune took shape.

As in an Escher lithograph, I involved myself with recurrent themes that turn into paradox. The central paradox concerns the human vision of time. What about Paul's gift of prescience-the Presbyterian fixation? For the Delphic Oracle to perform, it must tangle itself in a web of predestination. Yet predestination negates surprises and, in fact, sets up a mathematically enclosed universe whose limits are always inconsistent, always encountering the unprovable. It's like a koan, a Zen mind breaker. It's like the Cretan Epimenides saying, "All Cretans are liars."

Each limiting descriptive step you take drives your vision outward into a larger universe which is contained in still a larger universe ad infinitum, and in the smaller universes ad infinitum. No matter how finely you subdivide time and space, each tiny division contains infinity.

But this could imply that you can cut across linear time, open it like a ripe fruit, and see consequential connections. You could be prescient, predict accurately. Predestination and paradox once more.

The flaw must lie in our methods of description, in languages, in social networks of meaning, in moral structures, and in philosophies and religions-all of which convey implicit limits where no limits exist. Paul Muad'Dib, after all, says this time after time throughout Dune.

Do you want an absolute prediction? Then you want only today, and you reject tomorrow. You are the ultimate conservative. You are trying to hold back movement in an infinitely changing universe. The verb to be does make idiots of us all.

Of course there are other themes and fugal interplays in Dune and throughout the trilogy. Dune Messiah performs a classic inversion of the theme. Children of Dune expands the number of themes interplaying. I refuse, however, to provide further answers to this complex mixture. That fits the pattern of the fugue. You find your own solutions. Don't look to me as your leader.

Caution is indeed indicated, but not the terror that prevents all movement. Hang loose. And when someone asks whether you're starting a new cult, do what I do: Run like hell.

Joseph-Vintimille Tariki Askaris
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Re: Good Dune essays?

Postby ᴶᵛᵀᴬ » 09 Jun 2014 16:53

This topic thread needs a LONG SPOILER button :mrgreen:


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      Re: Good Dune essays?

      Postby gwern » 03 Jun 2018 19:53

      Scan of the Omni issue with "Dune Genesis" for reference: ... 0.pdf?dl=0 ... -July-1980

      (Good essay, very explicit about the hero-myth part and underappreciated role of Dune Messiah as the deconstruction/inversion.)
      "Uproot your questions from their ground and the dangling roots will be seen. More questions!"