American Gothic/End of Chapter House

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American Gothic/End of Chapter House

Postby AlchemicalSolution » 17 Nov 2015 19:31

Hello, I'm new to the forum so please excuse if this is in the wrong place, I tried to search for existing threads on the topic but couldn't find anything.

Duncan Idaho's visions in Chapter House Dune seem to describe the painting American Gothic by Grant Wood. This might just be me, any alternative thoughts are more than welcome.

Assuming American Gothic is being referenced, does anybody know of the significance of this choice by Herbert?

More broadly, and I'm sure this is discussed elsewhere, is there any consensus of opinion about what is going on towards the end of Chapter House? I was as mystified on my last reading, this year, as on my first when I was eleven. Duncan seems to ascend to a higher state of consciousness due to a ghola awakening process coupled with BG/HM psycho-sexual mystic practices, and this allows him to become aware of the 4 dimensional surveillance he is under from what I think are highly evolved Tleilaxu Scattered Face Dancers, who are The Enemy from whom the HM are running back to the core systems. So....what's up with that? Why do these super Face Dancers look like an early 20th Century painting of a domestic pastoral scene?

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Re: American Gothic/End of Chapter House

Postby georgiedenbro » 18 Nov 2015 00:51

This is from the Wiki entry on American Gothic:

"In August 1930, Grant Wood, an American painter with European training, was driven around Eldon, Iowa by a young painter from Eldon, John Sharp. Looking for inspiration, Wood noticed the Dibble House, a small white house built in the Carpenter Gothic architectural style. Sharp's brother suggested in 1973 that it was on this drive that Wood first sketched the house on the back of an envelope. Wood's earliest biographer, Darrell Garwood, noted that Wood "thought it a form of borrowed pretentiousness, a structural absurdity, to put a Gothic-style window in such a flimsy frame house."

I assume you're right that Frank intended the painting to come to mind, and I think he also intended the absurdity of figures in a setting that was borrowed from another time, perhaps pretentious and out of place. In the case of 'Victorian America' we might suppose that the builder of the house with the gothic window was trying to capture something, to create an identity for the house even though it was put on and fake. We can perhaps draw a parallel between this kind of reaching for a stylistic identity and what it might be like to be a face dancer who can not only appropriate memories but personas as well. Who should they be? They can be almost anything, which in a funny way means that in their spare time any old thing they decide to be is as ridiculous a put-on as anything else. I also think the painting itself has something of an air of menace to it superimposed on what is otherwise a very ordinary looking conservative couple, which may mean that Marty and Daniel are very cautious and methodical even though their acts carry with them a serious threat.

That being said, Frank was clearly also going for the gardening or yard work imagery suggested by the pitchfork in American Gothic. Daniel is pruning roses, which if we want to get fancy we can maybe take as a metaphor for cutting out the chaff of humanity and trying to cultivate the best specimens. We don't know for what purpose, but if I was a Face Dancer like him I'd probably not want to settle for searching the galaxy for great personas to integrate; I'd probably take to farming my own so that I could create very specific kinds of exceptional people (just like the Bene Gesserit used to try to do) and then take their personas to add to my own. The text also mentions black roses which to me adds a morbid quality to the whole thing and is probably a reiteration that his pruning project is smeared with death. Marty says she had a nice planet picked out for Duncan and the others to test their abilities, but if we think of depositing special people on a particular planet is does bring to mind the image of planting. What they specifically intended to grow out of such a planting we obviously don't know. The word "test" also suggests the possibility of something like a lab experiment. We suspect that the HM were fleeing from M&D and maybe others like them, but it's possible that M&D weren't so much trying to exterminate them so much as cultivate and experiment on them like lab rats. I find that prospect more menacing, personally.

The imagery of a net also brings to mind a small town fisherman, while still utilizing the suggested meaning "network" and even simultaneously making us recall Paul's mention in Dune Appendix II about his prescience being like casting a net into time and drawing things in. We can't know for sure but I expect M&D's net was some sort of combination of prescience and Holtzman technology which allowed them to both search time and space with their minds and also to bend space like an INM does with a Holtzman drive. CH:D does make a point of reminding us that no one understood Holtzman's theories, and also that tachyons may be involved. We also to date never got a good explanation for how prescience works in conjunction with the spice. Perhaps FH was leading towards showing a connection between prescience and the Holtzman field, both of which may operate on the same basic principle. The idea of folding space (i.e. teleporting) is roughly the same thing as travelling through time, as is anything to do with tachyons (FTL particles). Prescience and the Holtzman drive therefore both employ FTL principles and manipulation of time. If I'm right about this it would mean that the secret of Holtzman's theories and the secret of the KH may have been discovered in the Scattering already. I could imagine people with that kind of power would realize that trying to control mere empires is a waste of time to one who lives forever and can constantly acquire new personas. To them acquiring better and better personas would probably be much more of a long-term focus than establishing power through armaments. Maybe the first long-term planners since Leto II?

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Re: American Gothic/End of Chapter House

Postby lotek » 19 Nov 2015 08:01

The truth is revealed.
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Spice is the worm's gonads.