Dune on Change


Yesterday Twitter buddy Kes of RMWC Reviews commented on a Matt Walsh opinion about young people and moving:

I shared my unsolicited personal thoughts on the topic and somehow winded up on Dune.


Given that it’s one of my favorite books and that I’m also a big fan of the 1984 movie adaptation, I’m not sure why I don’t write about Dune more often. Maybe one of the reasons I enjoy it so much is that there are so many angles to read it from.

One of its central themes is change. Paul cannot realize his destiny and transformation to Kwisatz Haderach without the move to Arrakis. House Atreides cannot achieve supremacy without it.

Admittedly, not all change is desirable. There is risk and trade-off. Sometimes stability is superior, although later in the story Paul might argue that this ultimately leads to stagnation and death. For Duke Leto, the move he willing embraces leads to his own end. And yet he realizes that his son, still young and adaptable, could thrive on Arrakis.

As he rises to his messianic role on Dune, he laments the change he sees in his friends as they become disciples and creatures.

An important element here is the focus on adaptation; on flexing and adjusting to survive and grow as a response to change. We spend a notable amount of time with Keynes, hearing about how desert life, both animal and man, have adapted to Dune. Ultimately the rising of Paul’s star relies in large part upon the development of what his father called “desert power.”

Hawat and Gurney, survivors of a ruined House, must adjust to adverse new circumstances to preserve both their lives and a lingering hope of exacting revenge upon the Harkonnens.

Even Feyd-Rautha, one of Paul’s chief antagonists, must learn from his failures and adopt a different approach to achieving his own ambitions. He cannot (yet) outwit his uncle, and so he must bide his time and learn what he can.

Of course this is just a story; I’m not saying everyone should go move to another country or change careers for the hell of it. Still, it’s interesting to think about and serves as a fictional illustration of the old advice that getting out of your comfort zone will do you good.


  1. Moving for opportunity is tough for working class people because they rely heavily on informal networks of family and friends. Which is why past large-scale working class migration (e.g., Great Migration, hillbilly highways) has taken place heavily at the family, not individual level. It’s not that young people shouldn’t think about moving, it’s that entire families should be thinking about moving.

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