Study Guide

Dune Coming of Age

By Frank Herbert

Coming of Age

Every child wants to be a grown-up, but no child wants to do the growing up. Why? Because it's hard, that's why. But if you think you have it bad, just trying growing up as Paul Atreides. Paul was displaced from the only planet he'd ever called home, only to have his father killed and his ducal destroyed. Paul then had to adapt himself to a wholly alien culture, find love, and prevent himself from becoming a messiah whose name will sunder the universe in a bloody jihad.

Actually, that all seems kind of familiar, right? Displacement, death, love, family, and adaptation to new cultures and ideas? It all sounds a lot like the path we all must travel as we come of age. Paul's path just needs a little more mopping. All that blood, you know.

Questions About Coming of Age

  1. Do any characters other than Paul come of age during the course of the novel? Who? Use evidence from the book to support your answer. Does this character's coming of age change or expand your understanding of the theme?
  2. Watch one of the Dune movies. Yeah, we know. Watching a movie—how awful. Anyway, compare and contrast Paul's coming of age in the book to that Paul's coming of age in one of the movies. What similarities do you see? What differences? How do these affect the theme within each version?
  3. Pick another coming of age novel, anything from All Quiet on the Western Front to The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Make a list comparing Paul's coming of age with the character's from your novel. What does this comparison suggest to you about the coming-of-age genre? Also, does the comparison lead you to a new understanding of either of the two novels?

Chew on This

Dune is about cultural as well as personal coming of age. Paul comes of age with the Fremen. At the same time, the Fremen come of age with Paul's help.

Although billed as a coming of age novel, Paul doesn't actually come of age. He's already an adult character at the beginning of the novel. He's older by the novel's end, but there are no significant changes to his personality.