Study Guide

Dune Family

By Frank Herbert


You know what we love here at Shmoop? It's when an author does the heavy lifting for us. It's just super nice of them. Here's Frank Herbert discussing the importance of family: "And I learned, from childhood, that the family experience can be very important to an individual. Family life teaches a person to shoulder his or her share of responsibility. […] A child can develop a sense of self-reliance and self-worth through involvement in such activities" (source).

It sounds like Herbert had something similar in mind when he wrote Dune. The family structure provides support and responsibility for both Paul Atreides and Feyd-Rautha. But—and this a big but—the very different families create different people. Paul is taught responsibility to support the family and people around him, while Feyd-Rautha is taught responsibility to himself only.

Questions About Family

  1. Compare and contrast the Harkonnen family with the Atreides family. What are the differences? What similarities do you see? Does this comparison provide any insights into the theme of family? What are they?
  2. Which character do you believe is the most family-oriented in Dune? Why do you think so, and how does this character increase your awareness about the theme of family in the novel?
  3. What character do you believe is the least family-oriented in Dune? Why? Does this character increase your awareness about the theme of family in the novel? Why or why not?

Chew on This

Family is a deterrent to success in the Dune universe. The characters that prosper, including both the Baron and Paul, are those willing to sacrifice their families in the name of success.

Then again… maybe success of the family is all that matters in Dune. The individual members of the family are not more important than the preservation of the family as a whole.