Study Guide

Dune Power

By Frank Herbert


"The willow submits to the wind and prospers until one day it is many willows—a wall against the wind. This is the willow's purpose." (3.81)

How very Zen of the Reverend Mother. The willow doesn't waste energy (power) fighting the wind. Instead, it reserves its energy for something it can do well—reproduce. This willow makes love, not war. We approve.

"[The Reverend Mother said,] 'You, Paul Atreides, descendant of kings, son of a Duke, you must learn to rule. It's something none of your ancestors learned.'" Paul opened his eyes, said: "That made me angry and I said my father rules an entire planet. And she said, 'He's losing it.' And I said my father was getting a richer planet. And she said, 'He'll lose that one, too.'[…]" (4.47)

Although Leto receives a richer planet, he will lose it. Why? Because he can't harness the full power of Arrakis, so he'll actually be getting less power in the exchange. It's like these people have a 1080p TV but don't have the cables to actually get 1080p on the screen. They just aren't getting their money's worth.

The pattern emerged and she put a hand to her cheek. The way the passing people looked at the palm trees! She saw envy, some hate… even a sense of hope. Each person raked those trees with a fixity of expression. (8.19)

On a dry planet like Arrakis, water equals power. The amount of water required to maintain the palm trees displays the power of their owners, who can afford such an extravagance. In a way, the palm trees maintain their own power, even though they're just used for display.

Halleck stirred, said: "I think what rankles, Sire, is that we've had no volunteers from the other Great Houses. They address you as 'Leto the Just' and promise eternal friendship, but only as long as it doesn't cost them anything." "They don't know yet who's going to win this exchange," the Duke said. "Most of the Houses have grown fat by taking few risks. One cannot truly blame them for this; one can only despise them." (12.65-66)

In politics, money equals power, because it's the resource any politician worth her salt pays the most attention to. Since it'll cost others money to help Leto, you can bet none of them will do it. Might we suggest a change of career, Leto?

The action had taken, also, a knowledge of personal power. Water was, indeed, power here. (16.48)

Bewt sells water on Arrakis. Since water equals power, that means that Bewt gets a lot of power by proxy. It's just like how Kim Kardashian has a lot of pull in our society because she… does… whatever it is she does.

"The way to control and direct a Mentat, Nefud, is through his information. False information — false results." (26.58)

Information is power, especially if you can get away give false information. Judge for yourself by checking out these amazing, and successful, historical lies.

[Paul] looked at his hand. How inadequate it appeared when measured against such creatures as that worm. (27.244)

Dune often reminds us that size and power do not go hand in hand (sorry about that). We see the turnaround later in the novel when Paul uses his hands—and a maker hook—to ride the worm.

"Men and their works have been a disease on the surface of their planets before now," [Kynes's] father said. "Nature tends to compensate for diseases, to remove or encapsulate them, to incorporate them into the system in her own way." (30.51)

Often in Dune, it seems as if the environment is at the mercy of the people living in it. But here, Kynes's father hints that the environment may have the most precious power there is: time, and plenty of it. Nature just plays the waiting game and works us into her own system.

Superb accuracy in water measurement, Jessica thought. And she noted that the walls of the meter trough held no trace of moisture after the water's passage. The water flowed off those walls without binding tension. She saw a profound clue to Fremen technology in the simple fact: they were perfectionists. (34.141)

Power in perfection: we see it in writers who work their hardest to find the perfect word, in scientists who make sure their formulas are perfect, and, of course, in water hoarders in the desert. All tend to become the best in their particular field.

"If I hear any more nonsense from either of you [Guildsmen]," Paul said, "I'll give the order that'll destroy all spice production on Arrakis… forever." (48.152)

Paul's ultimate power comes from his ability to destroy not create. The question we'll leave you with is, which is ultimately more powerful?