STUDENT LEARNING OUTCOMES:
Demonstrate academic (analytical, argumentative) writing based on reading of
Apply critical thinking skills to writing and complex readings.
Demonstrate analysis, comparison, synthesis, and documentation of independent
Write cogent, well-developed arguments that clearly articulate a thesis
supported by textual evidence.
Select, evaluate, interpret, and synthesize sources in the service of an argument.
Document sources (print, electronic, and other) in MLA style.
1. Apply the philosophy of Lao-tzu to one character in A Game of Thrones. Argue for his or her
success or failure based on adhering to, or failing to adhere to, Lao-tzu’s philosophy. Can we
apply Lao-tzu’s approach to government as either a public or personal philosophy in our
2. Apply the philosophy of Lao-tzu to the community of the Night’s Watch. Argue for its
success or failure in this closed society. Can we compare the Night’s Watch to a
contemporary community? Can we apply Lao-tzu’s approach to government in a
3. Lao-tzu gives the ultimate leader the advice of “[practicing] not doing.” Which characters in
A Game of Thrones follow, or fail to follow, that advice? How does “not doing” help or
destroy them or their efforts? Argue for or against Lao-tzu’s advice regarding government
action and involvement in either or both A Game of Thrones and contemporary America.
4. Pick a character or two (or a family) from A Game of Thrones that expresses the
Machiavellian philosophy of “the end justifies the means.” Elaborate on how they justify the
acquisition & consolidation of their power. Make an argument that upholds or rejects this
approach to gaining and holding power. Finally, extend that argument to contemporary
America. Does the end justify the means for us today? Use specific examples to support your
5. Machiavelli argues that as a leader, “being disarmed makes you despised,” and he lays out
ways in which a leader must arm himself. Using examples from a Game of Thrones, show
how this advice is useful or destructive when leaders follow it. Finally, extend that argument
to contemporary America. Does being disarmed make people or countries despised today?
Use specific examples to support your final assertion.
6. Which characters from A Game of Thrones adopt a Machiavellian approach when it comes to
ruling and/or maintaining power? Is this the most suited strategy to have in that world? For
example, are Joffrey’s actions justified by Machiavelli’s methods of attaining and keeping
the power of the throne? Use a character or two (or a family) to support your argument.
Finally, extend your argument to contemporary America (or the world today). Do
contemporary leaders use a Machiavellian approach? Should they? How does or would this
approach affect citizens? Use specific examples to support your final assertion.
7. Machiavelli says that “A prince must not worry about the reproach of cruelty when it is a
matter of keeping his subjects united and loyal; for with a few examples of cruelty he will be
more compassionate than those who, out of excessive mercy, permit disorders to continue”
(43). Argue for or against the prevalence of this philosophy in A Game of Thrones. Use
examples from each of the key cities as support. Then consider if Machiavelli’s advice is
heeded in contemporary society. Use specific examples to support your assertion.
8. Is civil disobedience a practical and worthwhile response to injustice? Identify an example
(or two) of Thoreauvian-style “Civil Disobedience” in A Game of Thrones. Argue for its
success or failure as both a social protest and a personal undertaking. That is, does it disrupt
or change the status quo? Do the personal risks and sacrifices outweigh the consequences of
the disobedience? Finally, argue either for or against “civil disobedience” as an approach to
change that should be used in contemporary society. You might consider Martin Luther King
and Gandhi as examples you might use.
9. Thoreau says, “Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just
man is also a prison” (para. 22). Explain what Thoreau meant by this; then pick one or two
characters from A Game of Thrones and explain how this idea shows itself in the novel.
Argue for or against the character’s moral and ethical strength. Then argue for the wisdom of
adhering to moral and ethical strength in contemporary America. Use examples from both the
novel and society to support your assertions.
10. Cicero give us three alternatives ” 1) We can perform injustice and not suffer it ourselves; 2)
We can both perform it and suffer it; or 3) We can neither perform it nor suffer it.” (145)
Find a character in A Game of Thrones that uses any of these alternatives. Describe the
situation and argue for or against his choice and outcomes using Cicero has a fundamental
text. Then, extend your insights to contemporary society. Argue for which of the three
choices we embrace as Americans. Use specific examples to support your answer.
11. Based on Cicero’s definitions of wisdom and justice, make an argument for either “wisdom”
or “justice” as the better choice for a leader in A Game of Thrones. Use examples of both to
depict the success or folly of each. Consider other characters that might display
characteristics contrary to your argument and be prepared to refute contradictions. Then,
consider these same choices in our government today. Argue which, wisdom or justice, is
most often used in ruling. Is our traditional approach appropriate? Why or why not?
12. An allegory is a kind of story in which what happens is being compared to something else
that is similar and unstated. Using Plato’s rhetorical strategy of dialogue, create a modern
allegory that would be an allusion to “The Allegory of the Cave,” but that argues solutions to
issues of either modern society or those apparent in A Game of Thrones. What would the
images be? Who would control them? What would the escapee see outside of the cave?
13. Argue that Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” could be used as an accurate description of
mankind’s relationship to the Truth in A Game of Thrones. Consider explaining who or what
in A Game of Thrones represents the following: the people in the chairs facing the wall, the
images on the wall, the fire and figures tending it, the “sun,” and the “Truth-bringer” Finally,
submit a brief argument for how you could extend your application of the “Allegory” to
14. Choose a character from A Game of Thrones that you see as dynamic, that is, one that has
grown during the novel. Argue for or against the philosophy of Plato concerning the process
of enlightenment. Does the character follow the steps of the unchained prisoner? Does he or
she become a philosopher king/queen because of the enlightenment? Or does he or she
remain materialistic and greedy, as Plato says of the less enlightened leaders? Or is there
another reason for incompletion of the steps? Use specific, step-by-step examples.
Substantiate that your character irrefutably did see the light. Then, consider America today:
Do we follow the same steps to enlightenment? Are our leaders philosopher-kings? Should
15. In “The Allegory of the Cave,” Plato writes of prisoners in a cave who can only see images
on a wall, and concludes, “All in all, then, what people in this situation would take for truth
would be nothing more than the shadows of the manufactured objects” (1). Explain what
Plato means, and then argue that a particular clan, family, or castle keep duplicates the
conditions of prisoners in the cave when it comes to beliefs about the world. Explain what
their mistaken beliefs are and why they have them. Finally, extend your argument to
contemporary society. What are our modern caves? Can we escape them? How or why not?
Is it smarter to choose to remain in our metaphorical caves and be safe or should we
enlighten ourselves yet risk danger by venturing outside our cave?
16. In G.R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones, some of the characters somehow end up Beyond the
Wall. Is this space outside of the “cave” of the kingdoms? Does being beyond of the wall
make people wiser or give them better insight? Are any of them capable of serving as Plato’s
“Philosopher King?” Justify your answer, and be sure to consider the limitations of allegory.
Then, extend your insights to contemporary society. Argue for a space or spaces that are
outside of “the cave” of ignorance.
17. Consider Virginia Woolf’s stance on talented women writers and their place in society, as
well as the opportunities afforded them in which to practice their art. Argue for or against a
similar situation for women’s opportunities in A Game of Thrones.
18. Virginia Woolf creates a character she names Judith Shakespeare. She is, of course,
William’s lesser know, and tragically failed sister, who meets her end at her own hand after
being impregnated by Mr. Nick Greene, an “actor-manager.” Interestingly, a playwright and
pamphleteer Robert Green attacked William Shakespeare in 1592. Pamphleteers were a less
respected group of writers, and he was likely envious of Shakespeare’s genius. Woolf no
doubt alludes to him when she creates the rather despicable Nick Greene. Nick Greene has
access to the arts and theater that Judith cannot have. Argue for or against the idea that Nick
Greene “takes pity” on Judith in an attempt to use her genius for his own gain. Then discuss
this same situation as it might apply to characters in A Game of Thrones. Finally, extend your
argument to contemporary society. Do men still use the resources and abilities of women to
further their own careers?
19. In “Shakespeare’s Sister,” Virginia Woolf uses a cool and controlled tone, a rhetorical
strategy that allows her to manipulate male audience members into listening to her arguments
about the plight of women (and working class and poor men) throughout history. Do
marginalized characters in A Game of Thrones use these kinds of rhetorical strategies to
increase their own power base? Make an argument for one or more characters that achieve
power based on the ability to control rhetoric. Make sure to provide specific examples.
Explain how the character’s rhetoric influences others’ thinking and ultimately wins him or
her opportunity, power, or freedom. Is rhetoric still such a powerful tool in contemporary
society? Use specific examples to support your argument.
20. In Virginia Woolf’s “Shakespeare’s Sister,” Judith finds herself at the mercy of society’s
patriarchal nature. Despite her enormous potential and talent, she is unable to pursue her
passion; she has little control over the events in her life. In G.R.R. Martin’s A Game of
Thrones, several women are in a position similar to Judith’s. To what extent do men dictate
the events in these women’s lives? Finally, argue whether Woolf’s assertions about a
woman’s role extend into the 21st Century. Does the patriarchy still dictate the roles and
rights of women?
21. Virginia Woolf’s passage about Shakespeare’s sister can be directly compared to three sets of
siblings in A Game of Thrones: Robb and Arya, Jaime and Cersei, and Daenerys and Viserys.
Compare the situations of these three women and their brothers to that of Judith and William
Shakespeare. Argue that (and how) their lives would be different had gender not played a
role in their fates. Discuss the application of your theory to modern society. Do these
limitations and opportunities still hold true for women today?
22. Can Virginia Woolf’s depiction of Judith Shakespeare’s plight be related to men as well?
Consider the male characters in A Game of Thrones. Do any of them face similar struggles
with gender roles and limited opportunities? Argue that men are also victimized by social
standards and expectations. Describe and elaborate on the different stigmas, obstacles, and/or
difficulties that these characters experience and how they affect them. Then, extend your
argument to the 21st Century. Are men still suffering the kinds of oppression Woolf points to
in “Shakespeare’s Sister”? Why or why not? Alternatively, you might consider class,
gender identity, or ability as qualities that influence opportunity in the ways Woolf
asserts sex does.
23. Using A Game of Thrones compare and contrast the approaches to government of Lao-tzu
and Machiavelli. Argue for the best approach by illustrating moments of success and failure
in A Game of Thrones. Then extend your argument to contemporary America. Are these
methods in play in the 21st Century? Should they be? Which one should/does our government
most closely emulate? Will it lead to a successful outcome for Americans?