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Literature Study GuidesDuneBook 1 Sections 3 4 Summary

Dune | Study Guide

Frank Herbert

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Dune | Book 1, Sections 3–4 : Dune | Summary



Book 1, Section 3

Near sunset on the day of Paul's test, the Reverend Mother confronts Jessica about bearing a son rather than a daughter when she had been instructed to bear only daughters. Jessica's defense is that the duke wanted a son. The Bene Gesserit plan had been for Jessica to have a daughter who could then be wed to a Harkonnen heir to bring peace between the two Houses and comply with the Bene Gesserit breeding program. The Reverend Mother warns Jessica that bad things are in store for her and Paul as they are caught up in political maneuverings of the emperor, the Federated Great Houses of the Landsraad (such as House Atreides and House Harkonnen), and the Spacing Guild "with its damnable monopoly on interstellar transport." It seems to be a foregone conclusion Paul's father will die.

The Reverend Mother then speaks with Paul about his predictive dreams. He says he had a dream in which he told a girl with all-blue eyes about meeting the Reverend Mother, who put a "stamp of strangeness" on him. The girl also said to him, "Tell me about the waters of your homeworld, Usul." Paul knows he will meet this girl in the future, as he has dreamed of her before. The Reverend Mother tells Jessica to continue training Paul in the ways of the Bene Gesserit, including the "Voice."

Book 1, Section 4

Thufir Hawat meets Paul in a room reserved for training or learning. Paul is studying about the planet Arrakis and asks Hawat about the powerful sand storms that take place on Arrakis and about the Fremen. Hawat describes how the Fremen wear "stillsuits" that reclaim all of a person's body moisture for reuse.

Paul tells Hawat that the Reverend Mother told him he must learn to rule: "You, Paul Atreides, descendant of kings, son of a duke, you must learn to rule" and that "a ruler must learn to persuade and not to compel." Hawat agrees with these things and also with the Reverend Mother's implied message that Paul's father is failing in his leadership role.

After Hawat leaves, Gurney Halleck, weapons master, arrives carrying a load of weapons. Halleck plays his baliset—a stringed instrument—and sings a humorous song before the two engage in combat training. Halleck seems satisfied with Paul's fighting ability, although he cautions Paul not to think of this training as play but as serious training for a future need.


These sections continue to build the cast of characters. Readers get more insight into Jessica's role in the story, as it is revealed she is part of a plan to unite the Houses Harkonnen and Atreides—a plan she may have ruined when she bore Paul. Paul is shown to be a young man in the midst of his schooling, about to enter a new and more dangerous and serious chapter of his life. As Paul goes about the everyday activities of a ducal heir—book learning, physical training, massage—he is visited by one after the other of his father's men. Thufir Hawat and Gurney Halleck are the first two visitors, while Dr. Yueh will arrive in much the same way (stopping by Paul's training room) in the next section. These meetings serve a dual purpose; as each man interacts with Paul, his personality comes through and more of the political situation is revealed.

These two sections make it clear the move to Arrakis is dangerous. All of the duke's advisers fear what will happen there; they are not confident in the duke's ability to get himself out of this situation. Dr. Yueh knows the moment of his full betrayal is nearing. The Reverend Mother has given up on Duke Leto as a lost cause and is hoping Jessica's protection and training of Paul will allow them to survive when (not if) the duke is killed. She has warned both Paul and Jessica that the duke is unlikely to survive.

The situation is more chaotic than it should be because Jessica disobeyed the order to bear a daughter rather than a son. For the Bene Gesserit, who have spent generations manipulating family lines in order to achieve political outcomes, Jessica's decision is a major setback. The theme of power and control is explored through this decision. The Bene Gesserit seek to control, or have power over, the present and future. They do this through studying the patterns of history as well as by leveraging genetics to produce offspring with specific traits and allegiances. However, this power is shown to be fragile, as it is disrupted significantly by one woman's decision to have a son rather than a daughter. This displays the tension between the power of many versus the power of an individual, a central concern of the novel.

This tension is also part of Section 4's discussion about the importance of a capable leader, and it can even be seen in Paul's combat training. The lesson of hand-to-hand combat teaches that minor areas—even one's mood—can affect the ultimate outcome of a fight. Individual decisions are even more important when they are the decisions of leaders.

The theme of destiny comes through strongly in Paul's predictive dreams and in the way he continues to feel he has a terrible purpose, even though he isn't sure what it is yet. He knows he has a destiny that includes the girl in the dream and a terrible purpose. The mystical flavor of Paul's portentous dreaming and sense of purpose is juxtaposed with the very practical preparations being made for the move to Arrakis.

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