[Originally posted at Ana Mardoll's Ramblings.] [On the suggestion that Paul, the protagonist of Dune, should have tried to make things easier for Irulan rather than be an ass.]
Seems like it would have worked out pretty well for everyone the only possible exception being if Irulan was really unwilling to give up the status of being a visible princess. If that were the case though, it would be something that would be figured out in the, "How can I make this as not-miserable for you as possible?" conversation.
The Bene Gesserit (the not-really-secret-but-still-quite-secretive masters who try to manipulate everyone) would be notably unhappy with the plan, but if Paul and family were actually willing to be friendly with Irulan there's a decent chance Irulan wouldn't care that much about what they thought.
Paul, Jessica, and Irulan have all been manipulated by them basically since birth, Paul least amoung the three, but they've still got a lot to talk about.
"They want you to do that? They never stop, do they? You know, they wanted me to be female so I could be married off to my cousin."
Also, the Bene Gesserit don't have a very high opinion of Irulan. She's not getting respect from them, she's definitely not getting compassion, and she's surrounded by people who have broken free of the web of manipulation the Bene Gesserit create. I think that the potential is definitely there for her to turn her back on them much earlier.
At the very least the "how do I make you comfortable?" plan couldn't have turned out worse.
Some context might help here I suppose. For those unfamiliar with Dune:
Paul is the protagonist of Dune. Jessica is his mother. Chani is Paul's first wife. Irulan is princess of the empire. Alia is Paul's sister.
The Bene Gesserit are a group that influences politics and religion and have been working to create a messiah via a breeding program. That breeding program creates Jessica, she was supposed to have a daughter (she was capable of choosing the sex of her child) but had Paul instead causing the Messiah to show up a generation early. The Bene Gesserit desperately want to get control of those Messiah genetics and thus want a child of Paul in their control.
With me so far?
At the end of Dune, Paul marries Irulan which allows for a bloodless coup. (Sort of.) At this point he's already married to Chani but the marriage isn't recognized by the legal authority thus leaving him open to legally marry Irulan.
To prove to Chani that he's only doing this for political reasons and he still loves her and only her, Paul promises never to be nice to Irulan. Which is what the above discussion is all about. Instead of trying to make things easier on Irulan who is in a pretty unpleasant situation regardless, Paul basically makes her life hell. This does not work out well.
In the second book Irulan, working with the Bene Gesserit, drugs Chani's food in a way that basically amounts to giving her insanely powerful birth control which prevents Paul from having an heir resulting in political unrest. The hope is that Paul will at some point say, "I need a kid, I have a wife, I'll have a kid with my wife," and impregnate Irulan. That never happens.
Instead the unrest results in Paul's eyes being burned out, Chani switches to a hyper fertility diet that, not being prepared in the ordinary kitchens, Irulan can't drug. The previous drugging causes complications that end up killing Chani (her children, twins, survive.). Paul, now blind, walks off into the desert to die. Irulan repents and vows to protect the resulting orphans.
Alia is left in charge of the empire. The stress proves to be too much for her to bear. She goes insane.
And so on.
The two things to make note of are that Irulan, given the chance, will be good and that the downfalls of Paul, Chani, and Alia all have roots in Irulan's actions.
So basically, it seems that if Irulan hadn't been treated like crap but had instead been put in a situation where her natural goodness had a chance to come out the result would be that everyone would have been better off.
Imagine Dune if she hadn't been mistreated. There would still be a lot going wrong (not the least of which being Fate, which seems to see a need for a giant jihad and the deeply unpleasant 3.5 thousand year long reign of a God Emperor) there would still be conflict and challenge. It wouldn't turn things into a utopia or result in happily ever after. But Irulan was the only operative the conspiracy had on the inside, if she didn't play the role set out for her no one else would have which means that the personal tragedies that afflicted the characters wouldn't have happened.