(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The center of this novel is Paul Atreides, a young man who grows to power and self-knowledge on the desert world Arrakis several thousand years in the future. Arrakis is a harsh world but also the only source of the spice melange, a highly prized substance in the intergalactic Imperial society.

Paul’s family, the House of Atreides, has recently taken over Arrakis, but Baron Harkonnen, the planet’s former ruler, attacks the newly arrived Atreideses, kills Paul’s father, Duke Leto, and forces Paul and his mother, the Lady Jessica, to flee into the desert. Paul must make contact with the Fremen, Arrakis’ native inhabitants, and enlist their aid in overthrowing the Harkonnen forces.

Paul must also develop and control his clairvoyant powers for they are the key to his success, enabling him to see the various forces that influence events. Through them, Paul becomes a leader of the Fremen and the founder of a new Fremen religion, giving him the military strength to fight the Harkonnens and, what is more important, providing him with the self-knowledge he needs to control his own destiny.

Beneath the adventure-story plot, with battles and intrigues, the novel explores the mythic patterns of the human mind. Paul’s life conforms to that of the hero archetype with his noble origins, mystic powers, flight into the wilderness, contact with a foreign people, and avenging of his father’s death. Herbert wished to show the disruption of a society by a messianic superman figure.

The novel is also a fascinating study of ecology, revealing the interdependent facets of Arrakis, from the climate to the Fremen religion. Part of Paul’s development is his awareness that human society is as interconnected as a planet’s ecology and that it is impossible to have complete knowledge or control of all the factors making up either. Allowance for the unknown and quick adaptability are the wisest measures because, as the novel reveals, the universe remains a mystery.


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Most of the novel is set on Arrakis, a desert planet known as "Dune" and inhabited primarily by sandworms and a martial people called Fremen....

(The entire section is 202 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Dune is an excellent example of how an author may solve the potential conflict between a novel of "ideas" and an entertaining narrative. Paul...

(The entire section is 332 words.)

Literary Qualities

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Paul is a charismatic leader who can foresee some of the results of his actions. However, a character's ability to know the future presents...

(The entire section is 586 words.)

Social Concerns

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The sophisticated blend of ideas, characters, and plot makes Dune an excellent novel for study. It and its sequels are thoughtful...

(The entire section is 324 words.)

Ideas for Group Discussions

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

One could probably write a whole book of nothing but possible discussion topics for Dune. Its density of ideas, its working out in detail...

(The entire section is 1019 words.)

Topics for Discussion

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Paul Atreides's psychic powers are aided by a drug produced on Dune. Are drugs good or bad in Dune? Given the terrible effects many...

(The entire section is 376 words.)

Ideas for Reports and Papers

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Study the critics' objections to the anthropological content of Dune. To what did anthropologists object? Are any of their...

(The entire section is 446 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

One of the reasons reviewers initially disliked Dune was its resemblance to J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955), which had...

(The entire section is 291 words.)

Related Titles / Adaptations

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Herbert traced the fortunes of Arrakis and its theocracy through Dune Messiah and Children of Dune, completing what was...

(The entire section is 328 words.)

For Further Reference

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Beetz, Kirk. "Frank Herbert." In Beacham's Popular Fiction in America, edited by Walton Beacham and Suzanne Niemeyer. Washington,...

(The entire section is 146 words.)