Sunday, July 24, 2011

Dune Readalong: Part Three

These are the last of the Dune readalong questions.  What fun this has been!  I have loved all of the insights and different perspectives from all of the participants (check them out here.)  I probably need to read the book at least five more times to comprehend everything, but doing it as a group gave me a little jump start.  Thank you Carl, Andrea, and Grace for putting the questions together each week. 

My plan right now is to do some sort of a wrap-up post, but I don't know when because we're off on an adventure this week (one that is the polar opposite of conditions on Arrakis!)  Maybe when I get back.  Until then . . .

1.  What is your reaction to finally learning the identity of Princess Irulan?  Do you think that her convention added to the story?
We finally get to meet Princess Irulan in person!  The only reaction I can think of is that I was surprised that she was blonde. 

2.  Were you satisfied with the ending?  For those reading for the first time, was it what you expected?
The ending seemed rather abrupt, and didn't feel very satisfying to me.  I have unanswered questions (and, no, I haven't worked myself up to read the appendices yet.) I guess that's why there are sequels.

3.  On both Arrakis and Salusa Secundus, ecology plays a major role in shaping both characters and the story itself.  Was this convincing?  Do you think that Paul would have gone through with his threat to destroy the spice, knowing what it would mean for Arrakis?
I thought the ecology and its relationship to the characters was the strongest aspect of the novel.  I'm not sure if he would have gone through with the threat--he seemed pretty confident that he wouldn't have to.  A calculated risk made less risky by his visions of the future?

4.  Both Leto and Paul made their decisions on marriage for political reasons.  Do you agree with their choices?
It's hard for me to let go of my deep-seated, modern attitudes about marriage and the place of women in society.  In trying to look at it from a political/strategic vantage point, Paul and Irulan's marriage seems like the smart thing to do.  Irulan can write her books while Chani has Paul's love and devotion, but is that really going to work out?  Add in a micro-managing mother-in-law, and I think we could potentially see fireworks worthy of a Jerry Springer episode.
My mind is completely failing me in remembering why Duke Leto never married.  I know that he was devoted to Jessica, and that she did not want to force him with her powers, but was he waiting for a political reason to take a wife from another House or anything?

5.  What was your favorite part in this section of the book?
I enjoyed many things that followed the reunion of Gurney and Paul, especially when he confronts Jessica and learns that she was not the traitor.  I loved it when Paul made it clear that he did not need to kill Stilgar, and that "things change." 
To digress a slight bit, whenever Gurney played his music, I pictured Owain Phyfe, a musician that I love (often backed up The New World Renaissance Band).  I don't know how well-known he or the band is, but I have a couple of their albums and they're great.  Here's one of my favorites, although I must admit that he doesn't capture the warrior side of Gurney:

6.  One of the things I noticed in the discussions last week was Herbert's use of the word "jihad."  What do you think of Herbert's message about religion and politics?
I don't think I really grasp what his message was about religion and politics, but I loved the way he weaved in ideas and words reflecting how they may have evolved over eons of time.   The religious aspect was so interesting because on one hand the prophesies appeared to be manufactured by the Bene Gesserit, but at the same time, they are all coming true.  He never settles in either camp that I could tell.  Politically, there is the idea that power corrupts (and yet the Atreides manage to maintain a sense of honor), and that feints within feints within feints within feints within feints are often so complicated that they don't actually work...


  1. Jessica would be a horrifying mother-in-law...

    Leto never actually married Jessica because he wanted to have the option open to take a wife from one of the other houses, or at least to lead on potential wives to get what he wanted politically. To me it seemed kind of lame, because he was pretty definitely sure that he wasn't actually going to marry one of them.

  2. I'm with you, I don't think the ending was that much of an ending. I felt like I should see the line, "to be continued." I guess I will have to read the next one to find out some answers.

  3. How would you like to have Jessica over for dinner if you were Irulan?

  4. Thanks for clarifying. I was half-asleep when writing up my post and couldn't remember if i was missing anything. It does seem lame. He was very loyal to Jessica and I don't think he ever would have married.

  5. I think I would have to have a poisonous dart hiding somewhere on my person just in case...But it does sound like Jessica will be returning to Caladan, right? I'm happy for her if she does.

  6. Yes, there are just so many openings in the last two pages.

  7. In the first section Duke Leto does talk about the fact that he had no intention of marrying but in order to protect House Atriedes he needed to maintain the illusion that he was an eligible bachelor, at least until his son was old enough that he would be the one able to potentially "marry well". I don't find it to be lame at all. From a storytelling standpoint it helps the author establish the kind of culture that exists in this foreign (to us) landscape. It also is just one of many indications of the sort of political maneuvering and machinations that went on. I'd like to think that once Paul became of marrying age that Duke Leto would have went ahead and married Jessica. I can respect it when an author sets up rules within the world he is creating and then sticks to them. It gives the whole story more of an air of authenticity, and the fact that Herbert pulled from ancient cultures and from middle-eastern cultures as well gives the story its timeless quality because it feels as if it were a part of a real history. We could see things unfolding like this if humanity were to exist elsewhere. At this point in humanity's cultural evolution in this universe, women have yet to lay claim to all the rights and freedoms that they have in our society. But you can see the seeds being planted in this story for that to eventually occur.

    I haven't read the appendices yet to see more of Herbert's views on religion. Like everyone else it does look like he appropriated ideas from many religions. The thing I love about books is that regardless of what the author's intentions, it is what the reader pulls out of it that really matters. So regardless of what Herbert's intention was, I was able to enjoy a book in which I felt like he examined the wide range of human reaction to religion and faith, from the cynical and manipulative to the true devotion and belief. The fact that the Bene Gesserit seeded prophecy on planets as a means of future protection and control coupled with the result of some of those prophecies actually starting to come true is fascinating. Kudos to Herbert for doing so much in this novel without making it one of the thousand page tomes we have today.

  8. Your argument does sound like Leto does a noble thing rather than a thoughtless thing in not making Jessica his wife. And story-wise, it does make the story very believable and intriguing.

  9. I'm not sure it is so much as noble, just that he has a reason that is justifiable in the society that Herbert created. I certainly would have liked to see him say "damn the expectations" and just marry Jessica, but I think the book would have been less powerful without the inclusion of the sadness involved with doing one's duty and making sacrifices.