An Infrastructure of Commodities, and Frank Herbert’s Dune

In the novel Dune, by Frank Herbert, the setting of the wasteland desert planet of Arrakis presents a very unique situation, where the availability of basic human needs are stripped down and borderline removed. The scarcity of water on this planet throws into light the very interesting emphasis that we place on material and essential commodities here in the nation of the United States. It is truly astonishing how much certain commodities matter in our daily lives, but how little thought we give to them, as they are so easily distributed throughout our capitalist domestic infrastructure.

The human body, as Jen Laskey on everydayhealth.com put it, “uses water in all its cells, organs, and tissues to help regulate it’s temperature and maintain other bodily functions.” Because of the great need for water in our bodies, we need to ingest at least a beverage with each of our meals and when we are thirsty, at the bare minimum, according to Jen Laskey. In our country here on Earth, water is easy to come by, and we rarely have the need to search extensively for it. This is the exact opposite case on Arrakis in Dune. Water is so precious in the desert wastes that inhabitants wear special “stillsuits”, suits that reclaim and filter 99% of the body’s water for continual use, “”With a Fremen suit in good working order, you won’t lose more than a thimbleful of moisture a day…”(Herbert 109). The people of Arrakis depend so much on so little it really shows a stark contrast between the interesting universes that Frank Herbert has created and the lives of abundance that we Americans lead.

In America, our lives are pretty close to completely controlled by basic commodities. Everything we need is able to be purchases at local stores, and some items, like water and heat, are even transported to our homes and residences. In our nation, a great volume of the purchase and sell of some of these commodities depends on the American Stock market, and has continued to work so well because of the trading system developed long ago. Farmers, for instance,  that want to sell commercial crops will insure their transactions by creating a contract with “big corporations that depend on a consistent price for basic materials”(Wall Street Survivor). This allows the farmers to continue to operate and help the system run smoothly, and negate the risks of selling on the open market all the time. Through people just like farmers and the system in place that allows them to distribute their product, we as American people get to enjoy many basic commodities routinely and at an easily accessible price. This is not the case on the planet Arrakis, as the interplanetary powers of the Mining Guild control the planet only to squeeze the export of the valuable spice Melange. There is no real settled power that operates only out of Arrakis, and the climate of the entire planet makes it very hard to develop an infrastructure like we have here on our planet, In our country. Because of the difference in settings, it really shows how we take for granted the situation we have here at home.

This example of a distinct setting, so different from our own that Frank Herbert introduces us to leads us to speculation about what indeed would happen if we removed such a large factor of our lives, and were left to fend for ourselves out in a desert wasteland. It is really quite hard to imagine what actually might happen if we were living on our body’s own moisture every day, and this is only one would be situation if so many factors in our lives were changed.

Our lives run so smoothly here, we can only think about what would happen if our domestic trading system were imbalanced, our easy access to water and other essentials cut off. We cannot really know what will happen, or what would happen, but Frank Herbert presented an interesting scenario in Dune, and we can learn from it and use it to examine the lives we lead here, in our time.


Works Cited

“Commodity Stocks: Prices and Tips.” Wall Street Survivor, Wall Street Survivor, www.wallstreetsurvivor.com/find-stocks/interest/commodities.

Herbert, Frank, et al. Dune. Chilton Books, 1965.

Laskey, Jen. “The Health Benefits of Water.” EverydayHealth.com, Everyday Health, 16 Feb. 2015, www.everydayhealth.com/water-health/water-body-health.aspx.

Mitchell, Cory. “How the Stock Market Works.” Investopedia, 10 Aug. 2017, www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/082614/how-stock-market-works.asp.



CC BY-SA 4.0 An Infrastructure of Commodities, and Frank Herbert’s Dune by Walter is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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