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Old Jul 27, 2005, 09:56 AM   #1
HighWiredSith
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Dune

I must humbly apologize to my fellow book critics for not having the “Official” thread up for Dune discussion. I am in Idaho this week (or Oregon, they look the same), and have absolutely no time to get my act together. My review is on my laptop and at some point I will retrieve it and copy/paste to this thread.

In my hopefully brief absence, here is the promised thread and I hope you enjoy.

A humbly apologetic but still good looking,
HighWiredSith


PS - TMC, you can copy/paste your excellent critique here...if you want to be official.
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Old Jul 27, 2005, 10:33 AM   #2
toomuchcoffee
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Re: Dune

DUNE: CHAPTER ONE

The first chapter introduces the distinction of humans vs. animals. The Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother tests Paul to determine whether or not he is an animal. This is a point of apprehension for his mother because, if he fails, she will lose him. Jessica disobeyed the Bene Gesserit by giving birth to a boy. Just as in Star Wars, where the outsider Qui-Gon Jinn is later known to have greater wisdom than the Jedi council, so has Jessica’s defiance apparently brought about the arrival of a prophetic being.

The gom jabbar kills only animals, which suggests that there is a physical difference between humans and animals, but I have the impression that the two qualities exist in all people to varying degrees.

Drawing a distinction between those who are “animal” and those who are “human” does not seem to imply that there actually exists two different species that happen to look exactly alike, but the distinction seems to be rather a metaphorical expression of the gap of excellence that exists between people of talent and people who are merely mediocre, those who merely live day-to-day, satisfying more immediate instinctual needs, like sex, food, and a sense of being safe. The difference between the “human” and the “animal,” as it is so far described in the book, seems to be that they both have the same objectives, the exception being that humans pursue these goals for the benefit of the human race rather then merely for themselves. To me, this seems to be a more intelligent way to achieve these goals, sex, food, and self-preservation, because when a person looks after the goals of the community, the community in turn looks after the goals of the individual.

That some are born more human than animal, reminds me of the same genetic superiority of the Jedi and their midi-chlorians.

[EDIT]:The stone palace is described as having that "cooled-sweat feeling it acquired before a change in the weather." I imagine that he is refering to the residual cold that the stones absorbed during the winter that co-mingles with the heat of spring. Is this a foreshadowing of the desert planet to come?

[EDIT]:Paul seems to be noticing for the first time that his mother is not a supreme authority, and that she herself answers to figures of authority. I think this realization is one aspect of maturity, learning that one's parents are human and that they are subject to the powers of the world just as the child is subject to the powers of his/her home life. This leads me to wonder if the belief in god in adulthood is a replacement of the security felt in childhood, the unquestioned belief that one is being watched over and taken care of, rationalizing, in adulthood, the necessity of obeying one's masters. Belief in god convinces one, or provides the psychological grounding, that obedience is rewarded by security (as an adult, some form of spiritual centredness, I believe). [EDIT]: I think this realization also teaches a person that they have to be self-sufficient and can't expect to rely on human authority for a sense of security. Self-sufficiency has to be attained in order to avoid being controlled by a human authority, leaving only a spiritual source as the authority to obey throughout life. (I'm not sure that I know what I'm talking about there, but I just wanted to propose that idea in case the book brings me back to that idea in any way).

[EDIT]: The fact that the Fremen are not controlled by the Fraufreluches class systems suggests wildness itself, something outside of civilization, though I think the Fremen have laws themselves, but Paul's anticipation of it is a source of apprehension I think, hinting, perhaps, that there is a greater and unpredictable power outside of civilized authorities.

Why does Paul’s mother correct Paul by saying, “We did not get Arrakis.”? [EDIT]: I just read it again. I guess it means that, although the Atreides have taken control of the fiefdom, that the planet has a life of its own and it is best not to underestimate the power of nature. This makes me think of animal nature again, and I wonder if it will be revealed later in the book that enlightenment is attained by embracing rather than denying the animal nature, using the instinctual drive to achieve greater ends. (I've read it before, but I don't remember, only that it involves Paul's enlightenment, I believe).

The Reverend Mother, while she is seated on the trapestried chair, disregards the beautiful vista behind her, “Windows on each side of her overlooked the curving southern bend of the river and the green farmlands of the Atreides family holding, but the Reverend Mother ignored the view.” Could this imply that she is not impressed by the Atreides family itself, or does her dismissal of it simply a meant to indicate that her power is so formidable as not to be impressed by this symbol of wealth and prosperity? Does she consider the Atreides family to be more animal than human, and that their only worth is their political connections? She says that the paternal grandfather “was a man who appreciated the power of bravura.” This suggests to me that they possessed some superior talent.

The old woman is described as resembling a bird. Given that the Reverend Mother has an aversion to “animal” humans, the fact that she is described as being bird-like is ironic since a bird is a type of animal. To me, this implies that every person has an animal self, or that every person is a type of animal. The distinction being, I’m guessing from the bird metaphor, even though all are animals, some are born to soar above the rest.

Or is she described as being bird-like simply because that is how Paul perceives her? If Paul associates savagery with animals, then he might in turn associate the Reverend Mother’s intimidating appearance as being animal like, but an animal that is aloof and looks down on the lesser animals. But the observation comes from the omniscient voice, and it is not pointed out that she appears to Paul to be bird-like, which does not allow an interpretation that the observation is subjective, but that the reader is meant to associate those bird-like qualities with qualities that the Reverend Mother actually possesses.

Humans are better than animals because they are able to see the consequences of their actions, and this foresight gives them the ability to understand their actions within the framework of a bigger picture, and this insight in turn allows them to manipulate outside influences to conform to their individual destiny. “Animal” and “human,” then, refers to the two classes of humankind: those who do what they are told and seek only to satisfy immediate desires, and those who are able to choose which desires to act on and which to suppress. Humans foresee the outcome of their actions and are hence able to make the right decisions to effect that outcome.

The Reverend Mother points out that a human will “[feign] death that he might kill the trapper and remove a threat to his kind.” So a human is also aware of his connection to society and his responsibility to it. Perhaps this is another meaning of the grid, meaning the lines that connect with each other, creating individual boxes that are linked by the lines to all of the other boxes.

"Fear is an animal trait." The greater degree to which a person identifies with the idea that they are a being separate from, and in conflict with, the rest of the universe, the greater degree that person experiences fear. The belief that the universe is something separate from self engenders insecurity because that view-point does not allow experiences that contradict or challenge that illusory sense of self. But if a person feels connected to the universe and thinks of the conflict and passions that are encountered as a part of who they are, if they see themselves as encompassing the whole of life, there is no "other" to fear.

“Hope clouds observation.” Hope is the offspring of fear because it implies unhappiness that the world is not as it should be. If a person believes that he or she and the universe are one, then that person is able to say “yes” to the whole of experience and thereby eliminate the need for hope. Patience and awareness of the living universe (yes, a reference to the living force) is all that is necessary, “whatever will be will be.”

There are several suggestions that the Reverend Mother is still an animal, or, at least, has evolved to be quite animal-like in her endeavor to move the “animal” humans out of the bloodline. She has become machine-like in her eugenic calculations, even her teeth are made out of metal: “pale gums around silvery metal teeth.” To me that shocking image of her mouth is suggestive of both decay (physical decay is to me always suggestive of spiritual decay) and cruelty. The metal seems not only mechanical, but, when used to describe teeth, inspires ruthlessness.

Is the fact that the human-test box is green significant? I don’t like the idea of thinking about what every color symbolizes and over-analyzing and finding allegory where allegory is not intended, but even so, certain images seem to have meaning or at least are worth bringing up and discussing. The color that is chosen for a box that has such important purpose may very well be significant.

I see a lot of green where I live, and Paul’s land is green in a very elegant way. Am I instantly or even unconsciously reminded, whenever I see the color green, of plant-life? Not that I’m aware of, but in certain poetic contexts the color green may represent life (depending on the culture, water would also represent life, but on a planet covered in desert, the color green would certainly be significant and suggestive of plant life and therefore of life itself as well). On the other hand, if that is what Herbert intended, he probably would have adorned the box with images of plant life. Maybe. Even if it doesn’t mean anything, I’ll just experiment with the idea and move one.

Green, as a symbol of life, at first thought seems ironic because the box is actually a receptacle of pain. But, it has been said that true power is achieved by taking risks and by jumping into the whirlwind. The journey towards enlightenment requires risks that appear to be self-destructive and seem to result only in loneliness. This is because the person follows their own path, which, by definition, is a rejection of society (Jessica rejects the orders of her masters to produce a female child). But the fear of breaking away is a clinging to safety, and the adventure which destroys the identity actually produces one that is stronger and more ready to engage in life, not one that is alone but one that is fully engaged in society and has an active role as its member. Going in, Paul identified himself as an Atreides, but after that test that sense of identity was burned away. This test is only a foreshadowing of what will happen for Paul. The planet Arrakis will test and burn him in a very real way, but it will not be his hand; it will be his entire self. The change will be complete because he will live inside the box and put his entire person to the test and emerge as something different. The box was the door that he had to unlock, and Arrakis is the room of riches that he only needed to explore and take as his own.

I find that people typically hate weakness in others only when they believe being around that weakness too much will rub off on them and bring out their own similar weaknesses. However, and I haven’t really seen this often enough to know for sure, but it seems that people who are highly confident in who they are, are not threatened by the weaknesses of others and do not possess a desire to be cruel. The Reverend Mother is a person who possesses weaknesses, and she perhaps knows this simply because she is aware that she denies the masculine way of seeing. Paul, on the other hand, who is offended by the Reverend Mother’s callousness in her eugenic practices, is destined to possess the kind of true strength, possessing both the feminine and masculine memories, that is respectful of human life. She is powerful, but her power is not the greatest form of power because it thrives by destroying another aspect of life that she cannot tolerate because it makes her weak (?). But Paul himself was born with genetic superiority, so perhaps that entire idea should be disregarded. At, any rate, I don’t think it can be answered by reading this one chapter.

Another proof of the Reverend Mother’s weakness is the fact that she said; “I must have wanted you to fail.” Aside from her desire to destroy weakness in others, it also suggests that she is governed in at least a small part by unconscious motivations, over which she has no control, and these motivations can be considered evidence of her animal nature. The animal nature is competitive and seeks to destroy rivals: “the animal destroys and does not produce.”

“Humans can over-ride any nerve” because a quality of the human is its ability to transcend the animal nature. Physicality is a quality of the animal. Yoda: “Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.” Inside the box, what happens to the physical body is insignificant. It can burn away. The body is only a vehicle, it is the light within that matters. If Paul is able to identify himself with the light, then he is able to be a god. That test proved to Paul that he is a luminous being and that he can stand by and watch his body burn away.

During the test, he faced only destruction and death, in the form of the decrepit visage of the old woman and in the excoriation of his flesh. Does the identifaction with the light hold water? His physical body is also important. His meditation caused “aortal dilation.” It his mind that manipulated his body, so it seems that the enlightened mind is all powerful, but the presence of a well-tuned physical body is key as a vehicle of the enlightened mind. But perhaps it can be said that he transformed his body to be a physical expression of his mental awareness. The aortal dilation resembles a mind that opens itself to the current of life.

At the end, Paul is aware of a terrible power. Terrible because it is unstoppable and just as capable of doing great evil as it is capable of doing great good.

“Sit at my feet.” She desires power, as would a mind that does not see itself as being one with other people. Whereas, Paul, on the other hand, does not see this himself as being opposed to anything but as being one with the universe, does not even consider bowing at her feet anymore than a grown man let his father tell him that he is grounded. This indicates either his connection with the universe, or it indicates his awareness of his great potential power.

The Reverend Mother gained power over him because she validated his existence and revealed to him that he is undoubtedly “human.” The experience was unequivocal proof of his power, leaving no room for insecurity and doubt. Some achieve greatness through political connections or through simple manipulation, rendering their worthiness as possessors of that achievement as questionable and their sense of self-worth becomes insecure. (Yoda: “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hatred, hatred leads to suffering.”) Physical achievement and excellence however cannot be doubted, it is not something that can be taken way. This is why military service, which involves a blood oath and a trial of unparalleled difficulty, is a rare test and will often place the soldier who fights to protect his country from the encroachment of evil (WWII). It is an achievement that is above and beyond what others achieve. [EDIT]:It is the Reverend Mother who gave him that knowledge and it is for that reason that she has gained power over Paul.

“‘We did not get Arrakis.’ Jessica flicked dust from a pair of trousers . . .” This, to me, reveals that Jessica is proud of her identification with the Atreides family. Her flicking of the dust is an act of protect the dignity of the Atreides family, and to proclaim that there is not weakness in the Atreides family or in Paul.

The “Will o’ the Sand People” image recalls the Will o’ Wisps, which is what the glowglobes seem to resemble. Are we supposed to see the self-sustainability of the glowglobes as a metaphor for the Fremen? [EDIT]: I guess the reference to Will o' Wisps referred to the elusive presence of the Fremen since they are not recorded on a population consensus or part of the Fraufreluches, but it indicates also a kind of mysterious, mythical power.

“Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a man’s mind.” This is like the commandment that forbids idolatry, only here the divinity is man (or humans, rather), and the idol is the machine.

Last edited by toomuchcoffee : Jul 27, 2005 at 05:35 PM.
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Old Jul 29, 2005, 02:55 PM   #3
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Re: Dune

I like that Frank Herbert makes obvious references to the Bible (Pillar of Smoke by day, Column of Fire by night, among others) and has some charcters speak French. The French usage and Biblical references might be seen as out of place since this world takes place in a far distant place and/or time other than our own. I am inclined to wonder if the reader would respond to the references more poignantly than if he had used only new and made-up images. Assuming, of course, that they are familiar with the references. They don't seem to be very obscure references, so I imagine that most people from predominantly Christian countries would recognize and/or appreciate them.

I don't think it's necessarily laziness on his part. Either he did it beccause he thought the references would speak to the reader more effectively, or because they speak to Frank Herbert and he uses them only because he enjoys writing about them. I'm speaking more of his use of Biblical references rather than his use of French. His use of French seems to refer to the language of the aristocracy in the Dune world, just as French in England was spoken among the aristocracy.

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Old Jul 31, 2005, 11:52 PM   #4
Unicron
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Re: Dune

looks like someone has to much time on their hands.
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Old Aug 1, 2005, 09:42 AM   #5
toomuchcoffee
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Re: Dune

Well, don't let me scare anybody away from the book discussion. I actually don't have anything else to say, I don't think. I was just experimenting with analyzing Herbert's use of language, to see if it would help illuminate the messages being conveyed in the book, though I am wary of continuing that type of discussion simply because I do not know enough about Herbert and the book to do so. I'm not sure that an appreciation would be difficult to achieve, however. Maybe reading a biography of Herbert would help.

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Old Aug 4, 2005, 10:24 PM   #6
toomuchcoffee
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Re: Dune

I finished reading Dune last night and I like this book quite a bit, though I believe it will take at least five more readings to be able to understand and then articulate the themes more simply and concisely.

So, I wish others would read and record their thoughts. Otherwise, I will probably read it five more times before I write about it or am more able to discuss it without being long-winded or slightly incoherent.

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Old Aug 4, 2005, 10:56 PM   #7
Unicron
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Re: Dune

if I have time, I may pick up that book.
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Old Aug 5, 2005, 09:50 AM   #8
toomuchcoffee
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Re: Dune

I don't know if I would be able to contribute until I figure the book out a little more, but I was curious to see if others had any interesting observations.
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Old Aug 5, 2005, 10:12 AM   #9
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Re: Dune

It's all about OIL.

"He who controls the OIL controls the Universe!"

Imagine that the Great Houses are large corporations who have been sent into Iraq by the US to drill the oil!
Only one corporation can be there at a time and it is a very lucrative business - not one they want to give up to easily!

Couple that with the desire to breed a genetically superior person and voila - Dune.

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Old Aug 5, 2005, 05:21 PM   #10
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Re: Dune

well now that youve mentioned that......I would have to agree on your point of view.
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Old Aug 5, 2005, 07:11 PM   #11
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Re: Dune

I loved the book. And the original film of it.

Haven't read it for years, though, so can't accurately comment on it.

It's just those worm things. Anyone else get 'Tremors' flashbacks when reading it?

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Old Aug 5, 2005, 09:17 PM   #12
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Re: Dune

I have never seen "Tremors." Should I? Isn't Kevin Bacon in that movie?
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Old Aug 5, 2005, 10:23 PM   #13
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Re: Dune

Kevin Bacon is only in the first movies, which is the best out of the movies. they did make a series of Tremors, but it sucked.
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Old Aug 24, 2005, 10:13 PM   #14
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Re: Dune

Well, this whole idea seems to have croaked.
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Old Aug 25, 2005, 02:04 AM   #15
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Re: Dune

theres a pretty good chance that it may have been doomed from the begining
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