Study Guide

Dune Fate & Free Will

By Frank Herbert

Fate & Free Will

Human beings have an obsession with wondering about the future. Are we destined to play a specific, predestined role in history, or do we have free will? Do the tarot cards reveal truths about our future? How seriously should we take our fortune cookies? Dune plays with these ideas—well, except for the fortune cookie—and pretty much occupies a middle ground. Paul Atreides has the ability to see the future in his dreams, but he views the future as a spectrum of possibilities. In other words, he is fated to a variety of different futures, but his free will will determine which future ultimately becomes reality. It's pretty heavy stuff for a fifteen-year-old boy to cope with, but on the plus side, he doesn't have to lug a tarot deck everywhere he goes.

Questions About Fate & Free Will

  1. So, the big question then: Was Paul the messiah prophesized by the Fremen, or did he simply use the myth to his own advantage? Explain your answer.
  2. What do you think: do some characters employ free will while others are fated to certain destinies? What determines whether or not a character has free will? How are fate and free will determined? Don't forget those explanations.
  3. Pick a character, any character. In what ways does this character demonstrate free will? In what ways does this character no have free will? Make a list for each. What does your list tell you about the theme of fate and free will in Dune?

Chew on This

Although Dune plays coy with the idea of fate and free will, Paul's jihad means it lands on the side of fate.

The Bene Gesserit's breeding program suggests that the novel's idea of fate focuses more on social and political flavors of fate than the spiritual ones.