CliffsNotes on Herbert’s Dune and Other Works

CliffsNotes on Herbert’s Dune and Other Works

CliffsNotes on Herbert’s Dune and Other Works

CliffsNotes on Herbert’s Dune and Other Works



• Life and Background of the Author

• Critical Commentaries


Dune Messiah

The Book of Frank Herbert

The Worlds of Frank Herbert

The Godmakers

Under Pressure

Destination: Void

The Eyes of Heisenberg

The Green Brain

The Santaroga Barrier

Whipping Star

Hellstrom's Hive

• Critical Essay

The Unity and Continuity of Dune and Dune Messiah


For a casual reader of science fiction, reading Dune can be a vitalizing experience. Although there are many good science-fiction novels, none seems to have had the tremendous effect that Dune has had, at least on younger readers just getting into science fiction. It, probably more than any book written up to its time and more than most since, seemed to show the full promise of science fiction. It is not just that ecological matters are important now, although that helps. It is not just the idea of fighting corrupt politics, although that helps (more in 1975 than in 1965). It is not just the love story or the development of Paul’s powers or the Fremen way of life or the various disciplines or the exciting sequence of events or the sense of wonder at things beyond our experience; it is not even all these things lumped together. Rather, it is the fact that Frank Herbert has created a civilization spanning many stars, in which all the factors mentioned are parts in a consistent and coherent and comprehensive work. Few works that were written earlier even attempted both the breadth and the depth to be found in Dune.

Because Dune is such a rich and complex work, with such a multitude of patterns, relationships, and significances, it is impossible to hold all of them in mind at one time; perhaps the best approach is to suggest the ways in which the six basic factors which compose the literary work can be used to discover and uncover the things that are happening in the work. These six basic factors are character, story, plot, narrative point of view, setting, and language. Together, these not only provide the materials for the web of relationships that make up the book, but they also work together to create the theme (the complex of meanings that interpret experience for us) of the book. the results of an examination using these elements can be fairly brief and suggestive of further possibilities, as it will be here, or it can become quite lengthy and detailed, depending on the purposes of the person doing the analysis. in addition, these elements can be used to discover more about any story or book.

Probably the first aspect of the work that needs attention in a thoughtful examination is the story, the chronological-causal sequence of events. Although even this can become very complicated, what we are interested in is the basic skeleton that holds all the rest of these elements together. For such purposes, a story event can be defined as a point at which the story makes a choice of directions, chooses one possibility rather than another. There are several ways of approaching a summary of the story. One method would provide just the bare skeleton of events and would look rather like a list or perhaps an outline.

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