Study Guide

Dune What's Up With the Title?

By Frank Herbert

What's Up With the Title?

At first glance, it's a pretty boring title. The novel's story takes place on a planet called Dune; the book is called Dune. It's so simple, so meh. But if you'll learn anything here at Shmoop, it's that the simple can often be elegant and complex. Time for us to put up or shut up, right? Right.

As mentioned in our "Why I Should Care?" section, Dune is obsessed with ecology. The novel's plot, characters, and themes revolve around the issue of humans and their relationship to the natural world. Herbert even dedicated the novel to the dry-land ecologists. The title hints at this obsession before we even crack open the cover.

Herbert calls ecology the study of "understanding consequences," and Dune is practically a dissertation studying the consequences the planet of Arrakis has on the characters, institutions, and other worlds within its universe. Paul becomes the man he does because he comes of age in the harsh deserts of Arrakis. The political and economic structure of Herbert's universe supports itself on the spice. The feud between the Harkonnens and the Atreides families revolves around the planet.

In short, the ecology of Dune serves as the force pushing the entire story forward. Nothing and no one can escape the net of consequences within consequences within consequences, and Arrakis lies at the heart of this chain. That's why it gets top billing as the novel's title.

Oh, if you want to explore these issues one at a time, check out our "Themes" section, where we'll discuss religion, politics, and nature in Dune in more detail.