Amrit evaluation of gender in the novel, Dune’s patriarchal

Amrit MaharajMrs. SarjasENG 4U1 – 0412 January 2018it is possible to unearth the novel’s assertions about gender to reveal its traditional, patriarchal view. This is manifested in the way that the Imperial society of Dune is structured around families that utilize the exchange of women for establishing inter-clan relations. In addition, Dune establishes its heroic norm for strong male characters, who exhibit many of the masculine qualities, Protestant values, and rugged individuality highly valued in American culture. The women of Dune also conform to traditional gender expectations. With further evaluation of gender in the novel, Dune’s patriarchal prejudice against women is manifested.To begin, the universe Frank Herbert illustrates in Dune is a male-dominated society, where women are seen as objects and are used as a means of power. Regardless of whether the women of Dune express themselves as wives, mothers, or sisters, women remain limited to defining themselves by male standards. Women are incapable of enjoying a social status equal to men anywhere in the Dunian Imperium. The novel includes examples of the trafficking of women for the purpose of establishing inter-clan relations, such as marriage arrangements, the giving of sex-slaves, and the selling of women as brides. Women function as the possessions of men, to be exchanged among men for the purpose of establishing the ties between them that form the basis of society. This concept is demonstrated in the dinner party scene that occurs shortly after the Atreides’ arrival on Arrakis. At the party, Jessica plays hostess, wife, and even thinks of her role in these social functions as “surrogate mother” over the family’s domain (Herbert 157). Most of the women present “seem cast from a specific type––decorative,” and are mere silent companions of the important male guests (Herbert 153). The one autonomous woman present at the party, who is a recognized member of the business community, is a “thin and hard-faced woman who owns an escort service” (Herbert 153). She is apparently there to provide women for entertainment and does not participate in any of the conversations pertaining to the planet’s business and politics.”The remaining women are either prostitutes, wives, or social-climbing daughters” (Herbert 156-7). The women are not only largely irrelevant to the business at hand, but the roles that they occupy as wives, prostitutes, and upper-class women are also all dependent of the wealth and status of the party’s male guests. Furthermore, within politics, marriage is a means of power and social status. A prominent display of this idea is when Paul claims his right to the imperial throne through a loveless, political marriage to Emperor Shaddam’s daughter, Irulan. Despite the marriage, Paul keeps his common-law Fremen wife as a concubine, a position which she also accepts willfully. In response, Paul’s mother, Jessica states, “one of these desert women would not do as a wife to a Duke. As concubine, yes, but not as wife … what can his desert woman do for a Duke except serve him coffee? … She brings him no power, no family” (Herbert 358, 495). Evidently, marriage has nothing to do with love and everything to do with power and politics, which is a reality understood by all involved. Lévi-Strauss, a French anthropologist, and ethnologist expands stating, “the value of exchange is not simply that of the goods women exchanged. Exchange … has in itself a social value. It provides the means of binding men together” (Lévi-Strauss 480). Without a doubt, the women of Dune are not partners but are valuables, utilized for the formation of men’s relationships amongst themselves.Additionally, Dune establishes its heroic norm for strong male characters, who exhibit many masculine qualities.  Paul’s father, the Duke Leto, is an ideal representation of a strong, effective leader, who commands an impressive force of personality in the presence of his troops, employees, and even his son. Although Duke Leto appears for brief moments before his assassination, his every interaction reveals his superior intelligence, aptitude for political interest, and embodiment of the ideal characteristics for both military commander and father figure. When Leto chooses enormous financial loss in order to save the lives of some of his men, Kynes, the leader of the Fremen, finds himself admiring Leto, stating, “against his own will and all previous judgements because a man such as that would command fanatic loyalty” (Herbert 150). Herbert exaggerates the effect of Leto’s heroic qualities by glorifying them from the perspective of another man who is an impressive leader in his own, making Leto an embodiment of idealized masculinity. Herbert conveys that these characters are strong and successful on the basis of their own hard work, determination, and capability. On the other hand, Dune’s heroes are most apparent by contrast with the self-indulgent and dissolute habits of the novel’s villains. Not only do both the Baron Harkonnen and his nephew Rabban overeat to the point of morbid obesity, representing the counterpart of the masculine ideal, but the family also indulges in their sexual appetites just as recklessly. The Baron’s appetites are extreme and debased that he is not above rape, which is revealed when he gives his guard an order to “bring me that young fellow we bought on Gamont … Drug him well. I don’t feel like wrestling” (Herbert 219). Through these characterizations, Herbert is able to emphasize the Harkonnens’ divergence from the heroic norm. Their greedy nature is a theme frequently returned to, whereas the exclusion of any description of the sexual activities or eating habits of the Atreides implies their moderation. Instead, both Leto and Paul are depicted as being faithful to their respective one true loves, despite the fact that their fidelity is not actually required due to the women’s status as concubines. While the Atreides’ honorable attitudes, combined with their restraint and self-control, the Harkonnen House’s morality seems somewhat simplistic and emphasizes on the Atreides and their men’s heroic traits. Likewise, the women of Dune conform to traditional gender expectations. Jessica is by far the most significant female character in the novel, demonstrating how gender stereotypes about women are at work in Dune. Jessica’s feminine traits are strengthened by her assumption of her traditional roles as a concubine and mother.  The role of the concubine is lesser than wife, and this is clearly not lost on Jessica, but she is fixed in her devotion to her love nonetheless. This is demonstrated when Jessica falls in love with Leto and defying the Bene Geserit’s instructions by bearing Leto a son. She tells the Reverend Mother, Helen Gaius Mohiam, that she had to do disobey them because “it meant so much to him” and “exists only to serve” (Herbert 35-6). Jessica appears to have no desire for anything other than to obey her order’s assignment to fulfil the roles of a dutiful concubine and nurturing mother for which she was purchased. According to Beauvoir, “this recourse to love and devotion is the typical response of a woman who has no other prospects in life” (Beauvoir 683). Obedience is a trait patriarchy considers to be naturally present in women and a wife’s submission to her husband is the preferred expression of this characteristic.The Bene Gesserit sisters, as Hand elaborates, are confined to slavery  roles associated with obedience to men.  Furthermore, the supernatural power of the Kwisazt Haderach specifically relates to gender roles and the assumption that man’s capabilities naturally surpass that of a woman. All roles and affiliations in the Dune universe are determined by gender. The Bene Gesserit order is exclusive to women, with the exception of their Kwisazt Haderach; a supernaturally gifted man they work to produce through their millennia-long breeding program. The Kwisazt Haderach is predicted to gain his power through the same ritual that initiates and empowers the Reverend Mothers, making him the order’s only male Reverend. The Kwisazt Haderach’s unique power is his ability to survive the ritual and, according to Mohaim, receive the shared memories of “both feminine and masculine pasts” (Herbert 24). She explains that no woman is able to face this masculine path because “we are repelled by it, terrorized” (Herbert 24). This same ability is denied to all men except the Kwisazt Haderach, for while many have tried, they have all died in the attempt. This in itself suggests that there is a foundation for the Bene Gesserit order to be only open to women. As Adam Roberts, a British science fiction and fantasy novelist, observes, “there is something a woman lacks that this man has, something that will empower him to do things that a woman cannot do” (Roberts 46). Mohaim’s comment reveals an attachment to stereotypes of gender; women lack fortitude and are instead naturally weaker and more fearful than men. Likewise, the Kwisazt Haderach is more powerful to begin with because he is a man. Once he gains the mystical powers of the Bene Gesserit, he surpasses them all to gain the superhuman abilities of foresight and truth detection. Overall, Herbert remains consistent with traditional, patriarchal depictions of gender concepts. Prominent women in the novel, including Jessica, accepts the traditional role of women and furthermore, the origin of the Kwisazt Haderach’s powers is a result of prominent male traits which women lack.In conclusion, Dune’s patriarchal biases against women are evident. Dune’s male-dominated society is organized into clans that only offer women opportunities to take on traditional roles. In addition, Dune establishes its heroic norm for strong male characters, who exhibit many of the masculine qualities and rugged individuality. Furthermore, the women of Dune also conform to traditional gender expectations, thus, Jessica and the women of the Bene Gesserit find themselves in the same circumstance as women in other male-dominated societies: they cannot overturn the entire patriarchal social structure of which they find themselves a part, but rather, must abide by men’s rules.To this end, women turn their talents to maximizing their opportunities within their surroundings, with the result to encourage them to embody the patriarchal values as their own.