Last Group Discussion of Dune

Well this is it, after three weeks of reading Dune, today is the day for the last group discussion.  This event was hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings.  The final questions were provided by Grace at Books Without Any Pictures.   If you would like to follow everyone’s discussion please click here.

Before I start my discussion I would like to thank Carl for putting this group read together. This was my first group read and I have really enjoyed the discussions with everyone.  It has been nice to be able to discuss the novel and all the other topics that came out of the discussions.  Thank you Carl and thanks for everyone who participated.  It was been a treat.

Once again, please note that there will be spoilers in the discussion below.

1.  What is your reaction to finally learning the identity of Princess Irulan?  Do you think that her convention added to the story?

I was surprised by her identity.  From the snippets I gathered from her, I knew she was close to the action, but I didn’t know that she would be the emperor’s daughter.  Maybe I should have seen this coming since political marriages were referenced a lot in the previous pages.  But I didn’t put that together with Princess Irulan.

Also I was shocked by the pairing of Paul and Princess Irulan.  It seems that she will be in a loveless marriage and that her only purpose is to smooth things over between the two ruling parties.  Since I am just a normal person I have been allowed to choose my own destiny and my own spouse.  It is easy to forget that the powerful are “trained” differently.  Especially for those who grow up to be kings, queens, and emperors.  I do think that adding this element to the story is intriguing.

2.  Were you satisfied with the ending?  For those reading for the first time, was it what you expected?

To be honest, I felt that the ending was a bit rushed.  The first two parts were gripping and then the last third covered a lot of territory in a short amount of time.  I would have preferred more explanation for the final battle.  Also, I don’t see this as a standalone work since I feel that there are many unanswered questions.  If I didn’t know that there were other books in the series, then I would have found the ending to be powerful.  However, I do know that there are other books and now I’m like, “Well, what’s going to happen now?”  I hate that feeling.  Now I’ll have to buy more books and put them in my spreadsheet!

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?

For me Herbert was extremely convincing that ecology was one of the bigger characters in the novel.  Most of our lives are impacted each day by the environment and it is refreshing for a writer to recognize this fact and to write such a haunting story of what happens when the ecology can dictate everything.  When you think of a stage play, most of the action is dictated by the size and versatility of the stage.  The same thing is true with history.  One’s geography, ecology, and environment dictate the action, hence history.  Why does Poland have a history full of war and being conquered?  It doesn’t have any natural boundaries.  It could be invaded from all sides.  Why couldn’t Napoleon conquer England?  England was surrounded by water and had the best navy.  There is a great description of Napoleon standing on the shores of France looking in England’s direction shaking his head since he knew he could not conquer it even though he had succeeded (briefly) of taking over a lot of Western Europe.   You can only control so much.  And no matter how hard humans try to rule over nature, it is my belief that nature will always win.

In my opinion I think Paul knew that he wouldn’t have to destroy the spice.  The spice was too important.  He might have destroyed some of it, to bring people back to the bargaining table and to get them to listen to him.  He had all the cards and seemed confident that no one would call his bluff.

4.  Both Leto and Paul made their decisions on marriage for political reasons.  Do you agree with their choices?

Personally I don’t agree with their choices. However, I’ve never had to make decisions that have implications for thousands of people who I rule over.  And thank goodness since I would follow my heart.   But I’ve been raised to follow my heart.  Paul and Leto were raised differently.  And who am I to judge?

5.  What was your favorite part in this section of the book?

I was on the edge of my seat when Gurney returned and he still believed that Jessica was the traitor.  I had forgotten that many of the people believed that it was Jessica since it was made clear to the reader that it was Yueh.

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?

The use of the word jihad did not work for me.  This word is often misunderstood and misused on all sides.  And since his usage of the word didn’t work for me, I was somewhat confused about his message about religion and politics.  He threw in so many different elements of different religions that I found it confusing and somewhat disappointing.  Maybe he was trying to take parts of several religions and blend them into one saying that everyone’s religion is correct.  But I don’t know for sure.

About TBM

TB Markinson is an American who's recently returned to the US after a seven-year stint in the UK and Ireland. When she isn't writing, she's traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs in New England, or reading. Not necessarily in that order. Her novels have hit Amazon bestseller lists for lesbian fiction and lesbian romance. She cohosts the Lesbians Who Write Podcast (lesbianswhowrite.com) with Clare Lydon. TB also runs I Heart Lesfic (iheartlesfic.com), a place for authors and fans of lesfic to come together to celebrate lesbian fiction.
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25 Responses to Last Group Discussion of Dune

  1. Carl V. says:

    There is a revelation early on (page 105 in my book) where Princess Irulan, in one of her writings, says that her father is the Padisah Emperor, so Herbert does give a brief indication of who she is. I believe I noticed it, and remembered it enough to go back and find it, because I already knew who she was from watching the films and was kind of looking for those clues while I was reading.

    She is, at least at this point in the story, a very sad and tragic character and as I’ve mentioned on other sites also a heroic one as well. She knows her place and knows what must be done and does so willingly. As we close the pages on Dune all she is guaranteed of is having a husband and saving her people and perhaps all the people in this universe by bringing these two great Houses together and uniting them. She is not guaranteed happiness or love or anything and her father is not pushing her to do this and yet she still does what she knows is “right”, at least as is defined in the parameters of Herbert’s created universe. I see Chani and Jessica as heroic too, even though they get the better end of the deal because they are all but married in name and have the loving relationships. They had children born of that love and there are indications that Chani at least will have more children born from that love. It is tragic for them that they must remain something that is almost looked askew at, something “dirty” in comparison to being married into royalty, and yet the fact that they do this willingly also makes them heroic.

    One thing that I think is lost in this (admittedly better) day and age where we can have free will to choose is a sense of duty. Not all duty is a bad thing. Yes, it is bad to be forced into marriage for anything other than love. But I think often society looks at ALL duty as a curse, something to be rejected and avoided and I think that is said. I think we have a duty to each other, our community, our country and more often than not I think the overall attitude is that no one wants to be inconvenienced in any way, so they take up their “duty” when it works for them and shirk it otherwise. Anyway, this conversation could take me down a long and winding road. So…

    We’ve talked before and Arrakis being a character and it becomes a more important, well-rounded character the more the book goes on. Frank Herbert really created something special in that respect.

    I didn’t find the religion and politics confusing, I found it fascinating. As I said elsewhere I don’t see Herbert doing something as simple as trying to make one blanket statement about politics or religion. Nor do I see him trying to say that all religion is correct, or incorrect. Through the actions of all of his characters he shows how both religion and politics can be abused and can be abusive/manipulative, but he also shows how both religion and politics can be tools to create something wonderful, like an Arrakis with life teeming on it, a world revived and renewed where all was once barren. That is a pretty powerful metaphor for what belief and government can do if given the right direction and having the right vision. What I loved about this book is I never felt Herbert was making a judgement call on any of it. He didn’t shy away from the dirty, manipulative, violent nature of man especially when it comes to beliefs and political ideology, but he also wasn’t afraid to show some good as well.

    The use of the word “jihad” never really bothered me, because this novel is 50 years old. Had it been written today in a science fiction novel it would seem wholly out of place because of the connotations the word now has, but just taking a little time to scan ‘Wiki’ you see that the origins of the word and even some of its other modern uses are not what we in the West see it as. But again, that is just me. So much of the names and language that Herbert used were obviously based on a Middle-eastern culture (not sure if that is quite the right term) that the use of this word does not seem out of place to me. I take the approach with classic fiction of any kind that it has to be read in context. Some of Heinlein and Asimov’s works are amazing but it would be easy to get caught up on the small things that don’t sit right today, like computers as big as whole rooms when today we have computers that are more powerful than any they imagined that are miniscule. Again, I think it works just fine if taken in the context of the time when he was writing and that the word could convey the concept of a war being waged in the name of a religious figure, in this case Muad’Dib, the Lisan al Gaib.

    • TBM says:

      I think I remember reading that Irulan’s father was the emperor but I didn’t remember that until you mentioned it. It was a “doh” moment. I believe if I reread this work years from now I would be able to pick up on so many things that I overlooked the first time. Which is why I think this book has stood the test of time. There is so much there and so much to think about.

      I’ll have to give your comment about duty some thought. For me, caring about not only ones close to me, but society and the environment doesn’t feel like a duty to me. It feels right. So are you saying that Irulan didn’t see it as a duty but as something that was right?

  2. Carl V. says:

    I’m sure I generalized too much in regards to my “duty” comments and I am certainly not clear in that I am defining “duty” not as so much as a “job” or “obligation” as much as I am making the comment that I often see/hear the ideas of our “freedoms” and “free will” and “choice” used to avoid taking any personal responsibility. Words like “work” and even “obligation” and “duty” have taken on a dirty or negative connotation and I don’t believe that was always the case. Unbeknownst to you of course is the fact that we have been talking about this a great deal at church lately.

    The modern American Christian church has to some degree got lost in the ideas that God will prosper us and give us good things (which is true in our belief system) and has conveniently forgotten the idea that to put ones self in a place to receive those blessings actually requires some work and obedience. Not to “earn” those things but because of the truth contained in that old adage “he who does not work does not eat”. The bottom line is that it is ever more easy with all the distractions of this life (building on a previous conversation) to not take the time to care for ourselves or to actually go out of our way to help others.

    Part of the reason religion takes such a beating is that so many people in the name of God go to church one day a week and never give of themselves to anyone unless it is somehow self-serving. Again, a generalization but one with a lot of truth in it. I think there is a middle-ground that we miss between obligations forced upon us by bad societal rules (as we see in the plight of women over the years that still to some degree, and in some places exists today) and those obligations to actually “do the right thing”. Obligations that we simply must take up as members of humanity. There is far too much of that “you can’t tell me what to do” attitude. When the reality is that to live responsibly in the word there have to be rules and duties and obligations to each other, to our planet, etc. That isn’t a bad thing but it is often painted as such.

    I admire Irulan in that while it is truly terrible and wrong that her society is built in such a way that she can be used as a political pawn, she doesn’t fight it, nor do I see her giving in to it as some simpering “weak female”. Instead she does so with dignity and we can see in the examples that exist of her very extensive writing that one of the things she for sure did was record an exhaustive history of these events, a monumental and honor-worthy calling (duty) that she embraced.

  3. TBM says:

    I agree with you that too many people in today’s world do not like taking responsibility. And a lot of people don’t like being told what to do. Which explains why our environment is in such a bad state today. Taking into account what you wrote and looking at Dune, do you think that is why Herbert included a Princess Irulan? Is he also making the points that you are making. That too many people don’t know how to do the right thing and to do it with style. Is he commenting that yes it sucks that she won’t be loved, but she will save a lot of people and ease their lives and we need more people like that?

    • Carl V. says:

      As much as I praise authors whose work I like (an I now count Herbert as one of them), I have always been of the mind that people who do literary criticism for a living often give more responsibility to and read more into the works of authors than they themselves intended. What I think is “magical” about a work of fiction is that whatever the author’s intent, a good storyteller well end up with a bunch of possible unintended messages, ideas, etc. Herbert could have planned things out that well or he could have simply stumbled on a character who turns out to have much more dimension than he intended. He may have only had the Princess there initially as the narrator of the piece. I’m not sure. What I do know is that I love how a deeper discussion of a novel (like we’ve all had) can lead us into all kinds of interpretations and ideas about things.

      I keep reading stuff that all of you have seen in this that whipped right past me and that
      sets my mind reeling. I love it!

      • TBM says:

        It is amazing how much one can read into a novel! Sometimes I think we do read too much into it, but then I read or listen to an author discuss their works and I’m surprised by how much they actually planned for us to figure things out. So it is hard not too read too much into the works.

        But I agree, I like how our discussions have opened near doors for me to look into and ponder. All of us have our own ideas and interpretations.

      • Grace says:

        Great discussion here! I think it’s interesting that so many characters end up making sacrifices for the greater good. It was one of the things that I admired about those characters, even though at the same time I felt bad that they were put into such circumstances that they even had to make those decisions.

  4. Caroline says:

    I really agree with you, I felt part III was rushed and he had to squeeze in too much. I also think that there are a lot of open questions and a lot of possible future storylines.
    When I read that paul was going to get married to the Princess I felt a real pain. An odd reaction but that I how it felt, for a moment I felt as if I was Chani. It is quite heartbreaking and I’m afraid it will not go so smooth.
    Since I also had problems with the word jihad and found the mix of cultzres and religions suprising, I have no clue. Did he really plead for tolerance? I’m not that sure.

    • TBM says:

      I wonder if he thought the book was getting too long. Maybe that is why he rushed, but I felt cheated that not a lot of details were included.

      Poor Chani. It can’t be easy to watch the person you love marry someone else. How could you not feel replaced or redundant? I know Paul tried to reassure her, but it would be a tough pill to swallow.

      I’m not sure if he was pleading for tolerance. Carl seems to have a better grip on his religious intentions so hopefully he can help us out! I would like to hear what others thought about it.

      • Carl V. says:

        I think we all need to follow Andrea (Little Red Reviewer’s) advice and read the appendix about religion. It would be interesting to see all that Herbert says about it there, even if it clashes with some of what I see/believe.

      • Grace says:

        I think Jessica’s reassurance would mean a lot more than Paul’s in that situation, since she had similar experiences as a concubine.

        I didn’t think that Herbert was teaching tolerance so much as caution that religion and politics shouldn’t mix. The reason why a jihad would be so terrible would be because people would have no real reason to hold themselves back if they were fighting in the name of their leader and of their religion simultaneously. There would be nothing to check that sort of power. After reading some of the appendixes, I thought that Herbert joined elements of every religion so that he could use the religions in the story to symbolize religion as a whole.

    • Carl V. says:

      I felt that same pain, Caroline, for all of them involved. I think that is why I found the end, and especially the last sentence, so very powerful. There is a lot of pain and bitterness and sorrow wrapped up in those last paragraphs along with the hope and the triumph. It is fun to read characters that have this kind of dimension to them. I don’t mind a ‘happily ever after story’, some of my favorites are just that. But I also don’t mind a good story that has a bittersweet or even tragic ending if it feels genuine.

      • TBM says:

        I found the last line to be quite powerful and a big statement about what is real and what history will remember.

        My only wish was that some of the other issues were a bit more resolved. I agree with Caroline that the end seemed a bit rushed.

  5. Caroline says:

    I am curious to know whether anyone will go on reading… Dune Messiah is much shorter…

    • TBM says:

      Are you saying that you want to read it? I’m curious about how the story plays out so I would consider it.

      • Carl V. says:

        I actually went online last night and read a bit about Dune Messiah and several people indicated that they consider it a Part 4 to Dune rather than its own novel. It sounded like there is a lot more philosophy and religious elements to the story (according to a few reviewers anyway), but it essentially continues Paul’s story, whereas I gather the novels after that are more focused on other characters. Again, this is info I gleaned from Amazon reviewers, so take it in the spirit it is offered. 🙂

  6. TBM says:

    Are you going to read it Carl? I would like to know more about what happens. It would be good to learn more about the philosophy and religious elements in the story. Maybe it will help me understand those aspects more.

  7. Carl V. says:

    I will probably read it at some point, but given that we are about to start the Way of Kings tome and the fact that I have several other books going right now I probably won’t read it right away.

    • TBM says:

      I totally understand. I still have 5 or 6 books for my summer challenge. But I think I’ll read it at some point and sooner rather than later so I can remember the first three parts. I did purchase the Way of the Kings…so I am one step closer to committing.

  8. Carl V. says:

    I started it yesterday. Haven’t read much of it but so far it is interesting. I’ll give you more of an update later in the week.

  9. TBM says:

    Hi Grace. Thanks for providing the questions this week. You’ve succeeded in generating some good discussions. I can see your point that he is warning against mixing religion and politics. I wonder if he read any of the works by the founding fathers about the separation of the church and state. However, I think it is much harder to actually separate the two. Even here in the States, we have the belief of separation, but the line is constantly blurred. I haven’t had a chance to read the appendix. But it sounds like I should give it a go and find a little clarity on the subject.

  10. Shelley says:

    I am so happy that I am not royalty! Even if it allowed my to write history books.
    I felt very much the same at the end, but one of the reasons I reread this was so I could read the second book, so I suppose it’s okay.
    What a great analogy of the stage/environment. I didn’t fully realize what an impact geography climate have on civilizations until I took a history class recently. Most striking was in learning about ancient civilizations how much the environment affected a society’s religious beliefs. I can see that in Dune.
    I felt like his portrayal of religion was meant to be an imagining of how beliefs would evolve and crossover many thousands of years into the future, so I was okay with usages of certain words because their meanings would have been skewed over time. I don’t know if this is true or not. I’d like to find out if this was his intention.

    • TBM says:

      That is one of the things I love about history, because it includes so many different aspects. People always ask my why I study history and I tell them because it is the greatest story ever told. It includes everything, sex, love, science, literature, families…you name it. And the environment is a huge impact on humans. It is hard to separate the environment from human activity and history.

      You make a good point about religion. I can see that he was trying to show how the ideas may evolve over time.

      What history class did you take? Also, I’m with you, I would never want to be royalty.

  11. Pingback: Dune (round iii) – Susan Hated Literature

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