The Messiah as Corruptor in Frank Herbert’s Dune Essay

The Messiah as Corruptor in Frank Herbert’s DuneFrank Herbert’s Dune is arguably one of the best science fiction novels ever written. Amilestone of the genre, the work incorporates an intricate plot with a unique setting andmemorable characters. Dune is rich with thematic material, touching on such varied issues as ecology, economics, religion, and politics; ultimately, it is a novel about control, the consequences of power, and human nature. Any reading of Dune and its sequels inevitably arrives at an analysis of Paul, who begins the novel as the youthful ducal heir to House Atreides.

Trained both by his mother, a sister of the enigmatic Bene Gesserit School, and by the mentat Thufir Hawat, the human equivalent of a supercomputer, Paul is obviously quite gifted. Through some combination of his genetic makeup and his education, Paul has exceptional mental clarity, often seeing connections where others would see nothing; sometimes his abilities, especially his prophetic dreams, transcend rational explanation. Early on in Dune, House Atreides is pressured into a change of fief from their ancestral home of Caladan to the unforgiving desert planet Arrakis—the sole source of the spice melange which, among other things, promotes long life and gives the Imperium a means of interstellar transport. The victim of a “work of art among vendettas,” Paul’s father, Duke Leto Atreides, is soon deposed and assassinated by the Atreides’ hereditary rival, the Baron Harkonnen. Having managed to escape House Harkonnen’s clutches, Paul and his mother, Lady Jessica, find themselves lost in the desert wilderness and are sooncaptured by a tribe of the indigenous Fremen. With the guidance of his mother, Paul works himself into the implanted …

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…s character, Herbert asserts that in messiahs we must not look for domination,but for inspiration.

Works Cited

Herbert, Frank. Dune. Berkley Publishing Company. New York, NY. 1965.

Herbert, Frank. Dune Messiah. Berkley Publishing Company. New York, NY. 1969.

Kucera, Paul. “Listening to Ourselves: Herbert’s Dune, “the Voice” and Performing theAbsolute.” Extrapolation. Vol 42, No 3. Fall 2001. 232–45.

Mulachy, Kevin. “The Prince on Arrakis: Frank Herbert’s Dialogue with Machiavelli.”Extrapolation. Vol 37, No 2. Spring 1996. 22–36.

O’Reilley, Timothy. Frank Herbert. Frederick Ungar Publishing Co. New York, NY. 1981.

Stratton, Susan. “The Messiah and the Greens: The Shape of Environmental Action in Dune and Pacific Edge.” Extrapolation. Vol 42, No 4. Winter 2001. 301–16.

Touponce, William. Frank Herbert. Twayne Publishers. Boston, MA. 1988.


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