Study Guide

Dune Coming of Age

By Frank Herbert

Coming of Age

He felt an offense against what his mother called his instinct for rightness. It wasn't that Reverend Mother lied to him. She obviously believed what she said. It was something deeper, something tied to his terrible purpose. (1.149)

Coming-of-Age Step 1: Learning that not everything your elders tell you is necessarily the right thing. Of course, some things are pretty good, so you should still probably pay attention to them, no matter how boring they are. You can always disagree later.

For when youth and beauty have gone, she will find that the place-between, once occupied by tension, has become a well-spring of cunning and resourcefulness. (3.Intro)

Coming of age in Dune doesn't just mean going from a child to an adult. Jessica, who is already an adult, must come of age into another stage of adulthood. In short, there are many "ages" we must come into during our lives.

"[…] Shield your son too much, Jessica, and he'll not grow strong enough to fulfill any destiny." (3.34)

Ah, the old helicopter parent dilemma—only in this case, it's less pushing your child to be a soccer prodigy and more teaching him to fight off assassins.

"[The Reverend Mother] asked me to tell her what it is to rule," Paul said. "And I said that one commands. And she said I had some unlearning to do." (4.52)

Bet you never heard this one in school before. For Paul, part of coming of age is unlearning what he has learned. Here's hoping we can unlearn every Adam Sandler movie we've ever seen.

I must mask my feelings, he thought. For the boy's sake. If ever he's to have a home, this must be it. I may think of Arrakis as a hell I've reached before death, but he must find here that which will inspire him. There must be something. (11.14)

Here's another traditional coming-of-age challenge, upgraded to a galactic scale. If you thought it was bad moving to another country, try moving to another planet. They don't even have the Internet in Dune's universe.

"There is probably no more terrible instant of enlightenment than the one in which you discover your father is a man—with human flesh." (14.Intro)

Yeah, it can be pretty disheartening when you learn your parents aren't the strongest, smartest people in the whole wide world. On the plus side, they can still put you on their insurance when you first start to drive, so you take the good with the bad.

He found his stillsuit's watertube in its clip at his neck, drew a warm swallow into his mouth, and he thought that here he truly began an Arrakeen existence—living on reclaimed moisture from his own breath and body. (23.15)

There comes a moment in any coming-of-age story when the character passes a threshold: first love, first man killed, first car purchased. Lots of firsts in these kinds of stories. For Paul, the threshold is his first gulp of tepid water.

"Sire!" Kynes said, and the word was torn from him, but Jessica saw that he was not now speaking to a boy of fifteen, but to a man, to a superior. Now Kynes meant the word. (25.120)

Equality. It's what coming of age is all about. When teenagers start treating you as an equal, you're officially a teenager. When it's adults, you're an adult. When people start treating you with little to no respect, congratulations, you've come of age as a parent.

To Paul, the sound [of dripping water] was like moments ticking away. He could feel time flowing through him, the instants never to be recaptured. He sensed a need for decision, but felt powerless to move. (34.150)

Perhaps more than equality, Paul's coming of age is about time. The time it takes him to grow up, the concern for time lost, and all that worrying about a time yet to come. Time, time, time, always on his mind.

Yet Chani was deep in the south—in the cold country where the sun was hot—secreted in one of the new sietch strongholds, safe with their son, Leto II. (40.5)

Paul's coming of age has come full circle. He was once the son, but now he's the father. He was once followed, but he now leads. He was once—oh, you get the idea.