Dune

by: Frank Herbert

Book I

Summary Book I

The first few pages of Dune foreshadow that something destructive is in store for Duke Leto and the Atreides family. For example, the reverend mother warns that something terrible is going to happen to the Atreides family and that Paul’s father, the duke, will die soon. When she suggests that Paul could be the Kwisatz Haderach, we begin to think this may be an important role in the preservation of the Atreides family. The reverend mother’s warnings concern Paul, who thinks she speaks “as though [his] father were dead.” Furthermore, Paul’s dream about the caves and the girl who calls him Usul also seems to be a premonition of Paul’s future and the novel’s future events.

Although Paul is Dune’s main character, Herbert shifts perspective freely from character to character within a single page or even within a few paragraphs. We read the reverend mother’s thoughts one moment, and Jessica’s thoughts the next moment. Herbert’s narrative technique provides us with an extraordinary amount of information, which is enriching, but also confusing. His narrative is flooded with countless names and concepts.

The technique becomes more familiar as the novel progresses. Eventually, Herbert allows us to know what each character thinks and feels consistently. Herbert’s tactic provides as much information as possible about the characters and their world, but it removes much of the dramatic tension that might exist if we were less aware of the characters’ intentions and motivations.