As many times as I’ve read Dune and watched the several versions of the movie, I’m still left guessing what Frank Herbert was up to. I haven’t read anything about Herbert’s life but I’m guessing he spent some time in either the Middle East or North Africa. The landscape of Dune is defined by the desolation of desert and the scarcity of important resources like water. I had seen the David Lynch movie several times before ever reading the book. I asked a friend once if the book was good. She said, “if the book is as beautiful tree in full bloom, then the movie is the same tree dead in the winter. The structure is the same but the beauty is missing.” Well … I had to read the book.
Now that I’ve read it a few times I’m still at a loss. It’s not that I think the meaning is incredibly deep and profound, it’s that I can’t figure out what keeps drawing me and millions of other back to it year after year. At it’s basic level it’s a story of individuation, nirvana, bliss, or whatever name you want to hang on ultimate being. It’s also a story of political intrigue, deception, war, and love – the key ingredients in any good novel. In the science fiction genre, it’s background characters are creative and not found repeated elsewhere as in so many other scifi books. Dune is also a story of rebels defeating the existing religious and political orthodoxy (this theme is also found in Star Wars).
The wants and desires of the collective unconscious are often seen in art before they ever become reality. Without doing a thorough analysis of current art and literature it’s hard to really know what is going on. However, throughout history the easiest way to divine the future is by studying the art of the present. You don’t need a crystal ball if you only pay attention to what’s going on around you. What is in our future if rebellious ideologies – like those depicted in Dune and Star Wars – represent our future. Is the present order as doomed as the monarchy was when European artists first imagined painting paintings in a land without a king? Is our present order doomed? What does Dune mean to you?