1. Donation


I have given considerable thought to the word “donation” in the title and how freely (or not) that donation is given. There seem to be degrees of free will involved in the donations, and there are multiple directions in which something is given to others. Is something being given freely if it is asked for? Mr. Harkonnen doesn’t think Mrs. Harkonnen is free to say “no” and says she thinks there will be a time when Trish quits asking. She enters into a contract in which she will “donate” an amount of sleep equal to the amount they extract from Baby A. She comments, “I don’t feel like a slave to the contract. I don’t feel that Mr. Harkonnen tricked or frightened me into it” (page 120 in my edition, 3 pages before the end of “The Poppy Fields.”)

There are comments about “elective insomniacs” and questions about whether they have a choice.

There are several mentions of “human exchanges” – sex, a kiss, the contract(?) – “a rare transfer wherein both bodies get to be donor and recipient and recipient and donor.”

Near the end Trish envisions a future in which no one can dream freely; they will all be monitored, enforced by the government.

What are your thoughts on these, or other, aspects of “donation”?


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    Very interesting question! I think the word 'donation' is probably a simplification. A donation is something you give voluntarily, but the word bears no implication as to the reason for the giving. Why give anything? When you give a gift to a family member on their birthday - is it a donation? It's not considered so. So the word 'Donation; (I think) also implies that you are contributing to a cause.

    Why would you contribute to a cause? Because you'd like to see it success. Maybe because you'll benefit from that cause, or someone you care for will benefit. Maybe you feel a moral obligation. Whatever the reason, I suspect there's an imperative to the donation - something that goes beyond simply being a 'gift'. Yes, we're free to opt not to donate to things - but are we truly free? I think the question is baked right into the concept.

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    When reading, I was reminded of (my perceptions of) the difference in blood doning between the UK and US. My perception of blood doning in the US is that it's a commercial transaction: you pay me for some of my blood. That reflects the language of contracts around the Harkonnens and their baby. In the UK, blood doning is a civic duty; money is carefully kept well away from the entire transaction.

    Is my perception correct?

    (Disclosure: I didn't finish the book because I got bored.)

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    "Donation" feels in this book very much like a politicised word, much like "education" or "rehabilitation" might be. As such, it can be used to slide at will between a voluntary gift to a cause, and a social duty that comes with some kind of sanction if you do not contribute. I was reminded of the vocabulary used by a former employer (I didn't stay long) - "we'd like to invite you to help on this project at the weekend"

    Disclosure in the spirit of @NeilNjae ... I did finish it but found the writing to be very dull.. the concept exceeded the ability of the writer IMHO
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    Nah. You give blood in the US out of goodwill. But they have to beg a lot. I think there are plasma donation centers that will pay you though. I've never been offered $ for my blood anyway.

    And I do love this question. In some ways it's a Sleep Obligation. I mean no one would likely donate blood if it didn't help others (or they weren't into the personal health benefits). Right? it's uncomfortable. But there is human suffering, and we have this capacity of empathy that makes us feel that we "owe it to" or have to do a thing to be a good person. I wonder how much that plays into the lives of those who can still sleep in this world, to share what of it they can with others -- but perhaps out of guilt as much as anything.

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