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Literature Study GuidesDuneBook 1 Sections 17 18 Summary

Dune | Study Guide

Frank Herbert

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Dune | Book 1, Sections 17–18 : Dune | Summary



Book 1, Section 17

Jessica wakes at 2:00 a.m. to a disturbance. Quickly dressing, she goes to the Great Hall. The disturbance turns out to be a drunken Duncan Idaho. To help sober him up, Jessica slaps him and orders him to drink some coffee. Idaho tells her "I do not take orders from a damn' Harkonnen spy." Jessica realizes this suspicion must have come from Hawat and sends for him. When Hawat arrives at her rooms she uses her powers of observation to ensure he is not the traitor. Hawat still suspects Jessica, and as she tries to convince him otherwise, she uses some of her Bene Gesserit training—the Voice of command, which Hawat finds "completely irresistible." She tells him he has "glimpsed the fist within the Bene Gesserit glove."

Book 1, Section 18

Hawat has reported his conversation with Jessica to the duke. Walking down the hall, the duke comes upon Mapes, who has been stabbed. Suddenly the duke is shot in the arm by a poisoned dart. He feels paralysis creeping over him and sees Dr. Yueh, the true traitor. Yueh reveals that he is betraying the duke just so he can kill Baron Harkonnen, and to that end he replaces one of the duke's teeth with one that will release a poison gas. He instructs the duke to bite down hard and expel the gas when he is close to the baron. Yueh says that in exchange for the duke killing the baron, he will make sure Paul and Jessica escape.


As events escalate toward the capture of the duke, the focus is on the identity of the traitor in their midst. Even the suspicion there is a traitor has torn the duke's most trusted people apart. Sowing this suspicion is one way the baron has tried to dissolve the support system on which the duke's success depends, and its use as a distraction from the identity and actions of the real traitor is undeniably successful. While Dr. Yueh is off preparing for the final betrayal, Jessica and Hawat are locked in a mutually suspicious standoff.

The theme of power and control is developed through the interaction between Hawat and Jessica. She reveals to him her Bene Gesserit training, which gives her enormous power to control others; to illustrate this power, she forces Hawat to obey her. She does this, in part, to show Hawat she has no need to create an elaborate plot to achieve some end. If she wanted to, she could have caused the duke to do anything she wished. "Power's a two-edged sword," she tells him, explaining that using power overtly sometimes undermines your ability to stay in control: "Yet, what would I accomplish? If enough of us Bene Gesserit did this, wouldn't it make all Bene Gesserit suspect? We don't want that, Thufir. We do not wish to destroy ourselves ... We truly exist only to serve." This introduces the important idea that power and control are related but not identical. Sometimes control is gained by a display of raw, brute power, and sometimes it is gained through other means.

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