Study Guide

Dune Power

By Frank Herbert


If we had to describe Dune's theme of power in one word, we'd use "energy." Why? Energy is required in any system to produce any form of force or power. In physics, energy produces the force that makes things move—Newton's Laws of Motion, anyone? In your body's system, food produces energy, so you can get up and do stuff… or sit down and play video games. In Dune, energy comes in a variety of forms, depending on the system in question. In economics, money creates the energy necessary to get things done, and this is why the Baron Harkonnen is such a threatening villain. On Arrakis, water equals power, because without water no one could do anything—because, you know, they'd die. Even information becomes a source of energy in the political system, because without it Mentats like Hawat and Paul could not produce their calculations. So, in a word, energy is power. Awesome.

Questions About Power

  1. There are many different forms of power in Dune. List as many as you can. What form of power do you think has the power to rule them all? Don't forget to explain your answer with textual evidence.
  2. Taking Paul off the table, what character do you think wields the most power on Arrakis? Why, and what form of power is it? What does this character tell you about the nature of power in the novel?
  3. Religion, Politics, Ecology, Economics, Military: which institution do you think holds the most power over the others? Ties are okay so long as you explain your reasoning.
  4. What do you think is the relationship between the power of the individual and the power of cultural institutions in Dune? Does one dominate the other? Do they share a certain power? Is it a circular power relationship? Feel free to rock that creativity.

Chew on This

We know it sounds clichéd, but the power of love really does triumph over all in Dune. Hey, the novel's really tapping into those classic themes, and it doesn't get more classic than that.

Duke Leto puts his faith in the power of family. The bet works out for his cause in the end, even if it doesn't work out very well for him.