The following discussion guide to my new novel, The Prisoner's Dilemma, is available free if you request it by emailing me. Below is the table of contents and a list of some of the discussion questions.
A STUDY AND DISCUSSION GUIDE TO THE PRISONER’S DILEMMA
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Parents and Families
Other Main Characters
Justices of the Supreme Court
ANALYSIS OF MAJOR CHARACTERS
THEMES, MOTIFS AND SYMBOLS
Justice vs. mercy
The banality of evil
The Heroes Journey (Quest)
The Prisoner’s Dilemma and the Tragedy of the Commons
Jungian archetypes (There are many more archetypes than those listed here)
CHAPTER SUMMARY AND ANALYSIS
Prologue through Chapter 3 Summary and Analysis:
Chapters 4 – 7 Summary and Analysis:
Chapters 8 – 12 Summary and Analysis:
Chapter 13 Summary and Analysis:
Chapters 14 – 17 Summary and Analysis:
Chapters 18 – 24 Summary and Analysis:
Chapter 25 Summary and Analysis:
Chapters 26 – 27Summary and Analysis:
Chapters 28 – 32 Summary and Analysis:
Chapters 18 – 24 Summary and Analysis:
Chapters 41 – 44 Summary and Analysis:
Chapters 45 – 51Summary and Analysis:
Epilogue Summary and Analysis:
IMPORTANT QUOTES TO PONDER
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS for middle and high school students
1. Is privacy protected by the Constitution? Why or why not?
2. How does an originalist Justice on the Supreme Court interpret the Constitution?
3. Susan tells her 8th grade class, “Do you know that there is a group of nine people in Washington that can tell you what to do? They can support or deny laws that tell you what you can and cannot read. This group can tell you when the police can arrest you or have to let you go.
These people can take away your most basic civil rights in the name of national security. They can make law or change law as well as destroy laws or enforce them. Appointed for life, they answer to no one. These are probably the most powerful people in the country if not the world. More powerful then the President or Congress, they are appointed for life and unless they die, resign, or are impeached cannot be removed from office."
How do you feel about all the power the Supreme Court has? What checks and balances are there for the Supreme Court? Should the Court have all this power?
4. In George Orwell’s book, Animal Farm, there is a set of rules. One is: All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others. The Declaration of Independence says all men are created equal Are all men created equal? What does that mean? Does it mean that all are “born equal?” The Declaration does not use the term, “Born Equal.” It uses the term “Created Equal.” Is there a difference between the two terms? What are the implications of this distinction?
5. If as some people say, a corporation is a person, does that mean that the Creator “Created” a corporation to be equal to a person? Or did man create the corporation? Does corporate personhood violate the spirit if not the intent of the Declaration? Is it sacrilegious to call a corporation a person? Does that title usurp the powers of the Creator?
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS for College Students and Adults
1. What is the meaning of the statement in The Declaration of Independence that reads, “All men are created equal?” Does this apply to corporations? To animals?
2. What is the Prisoner’s Dilemma? How does it relate to the story?
3. How can one escape the prisoner’s dilemma? What does it mean when Phillip J. Eby says in the Epigraph “that the only way out of the Prisoner's Dilemma is for somebody to not defect, to not sell out their dream because they're afraid of being sold out first.…Somebody has to go first, and be willing to accept the consequences.” Is it possible or even desirable in today’s world to follow that path? What are the consequences for one who does take that road?
4. The theme of justice vs. mercy is implied throughout the story. Which dominates in today’s legal system? Should it be reversed? How could it be reversed?
5. How does the Gilded Age impact us today? What are the long-term implications for today and going forward into the future?
6. Madison argued that the original intent of the framers must be based on the ratification debates rather than the debates at the Constitutional Convention. What do you think?
7. How does an originalist justify a literal interpretation of the Constitution if there are no Framers around to ask?
8. In Chapter 45, Susan and Killiam are interviewed on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Susan says the following: When we first began this lawsuit a couple of years ago, we wanted nothing more than to punish those person’s responsible for their negligence. Over time we realized that punishment was not the answer. Rather, it became more important to send a loud and clear message that those putting the public at risk will be held accountable.
Let me put it another way. It’s not about punishing Mighty Meadows. It’s not even about punishing Taney Smith; it’s about accountability. We wanted to make it clear to all those who seek to profit at the expense of the public welfare that they will be held accountable and responsible for their actions. It was justice we were seeking, not money. We knew it was time we Americans stood up for ourselves. Therefore, after much research and hard work by our Attorney, David Killiam, and others we decided to go a different route. We knew it would be difficult. We didn’t know how difficult it would be.
What are the personal changes that the parents and Susan have gone through? Have they replaced anger and revenge with the desire for justice and accountability? Is it possible that the parents could move to acceptance? Even forgiveness?
9. In Chapter 30, Smith has decided to roll on his fellow cohorts. This chapter also shows Smith descending into irrationality by running across the parking lot. What does this act show us about Smith? Is this a final downfall and if so, is it a result of a character flaw? Or could this have been avoided had he acted differently at some earlier point in his life? If Smith has a fatal flaw, what is it? How free was Smith to avoid this end