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The Monomyth as Fractal Pattern in Frank Herbert's Dune Novels

Donald Palumbo
Science Fiction Studies
Vol. 25, No. 3 (Nov., 1998), pp. 433-458
Published by: SF-TH Inc
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4240724
Page Count: 26
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The Monomyth as Fractal Pattern in Frank Herbert's Dune Novels
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Abstract

Frank Herbert's DUNE series mirrors its explicit ecological theme through its dynamical-systems plot structure, which echoes the fractal geometry image's definitive quality of self-similarity across the same scale. It does so, among other ways, through the incorporation of the Monomyth as a principal structuring device in each of its six novels. This repetition of the Monomyth is but one instance of the series' fractal iteration of numerous ancillary parallel plot structures and themes, but is of unique importance because it subsumes within it the reiteration in each of these six novels of the many interrelated elements that comprise the Monomyth, as defined by Joseph Campbell in The Hero With a Thousand Faces. This article analyzes the recurrence of this archetypal plot structure in each volume of the DUNE series, giving special attention to the specific pattern of variations and inversions introduced by Herbert, to further demonstrate the series' pervasive fractal structure. Herbert's aesthetic achievement in mirroring the DUNE series' ecological theme in its recurring fractal structure through this recycling of the Monomyth is wonderfully compounded, not only in that mirroring is itself the essential characteristic of any fractal structure, but also in that the Monomyth, as the single consciously-controlled pattern most widely exhibited in the world's folk tales, myths, and religious fables, is already intrinsically fractal by definition.

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