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There is the theme of love, that is, the confusing nature of love. The princess falls in love with a handsome young man.
". . . and she loved him with an ardor that had enough of barbarism in it to make it exceedingly warm and strong".
The theme of determination and free will; the semi-barbaric king allowed the prisoners who were subjected to his judgment to choose their fates. No one was allowed to interfere with the prisoners’ choice of the door.
The theme of civilisation and barbarity is also evident in this short story. The king is termed as semi-barbaric. “In the very olden time there lived a semi-barbaric king”. Also the princess is said to be barbaric.
“The girl was lovely, but she had dared to raise her eyes to the loved one of the princess; and, with all the intensity of the savage blood transmitted to her through long lines of wholly barbaric ancestor. . .”
The most prominent theme is dealing with the consequences of your actions and choices. Poor prisoners of the king are forced to choose one of two doors which hold behind them either life or death. And then the princess of course has the difficult choice to make whether she should tell her lover the truth about who is behind which door or not. Enotes has an indepth discussion of choices in this story at the link below.
I agree with the answer below and would l like to add that the story presents its theme in a very unusual way. Not only is the story's theme about making choices, it is also about examining who we are at the heart of ourselves before making a life changing decision. The author presents this idea in such a way that we, the readers, are called to make the examination ourselves for the princess. He writes an ambiguous ending that we then are asked to figure out. When the author received letters and visits from readers of his story demanding that he write a true ending, his response was that the ending was up to the reader and whatever choice the reader made would tell the reader more about himself or herself.
I feel the theme of "The Lady, or the Tiger? is one of making the right choice and overcoming jealousy and pride. The Princess holds the fate of her lover in her hands. She knows what is behind each door and that her lover will be looking to her for the right choice, which is life. The princess feels that her lover has betrayed her with his flirtatious airs around the maiden behind the door. She knows they have spoken and exchanged glances. She also hates the maiden because of this and would love nothing more than to see her lose her lover and end up with no one and very unhappy. She also doesn't want to see her lover married to someone other than her. With all these situations and knowing her inheritance is "semibarbaric", one would think she would direct her lover to the wrong door. But if she truly loves the man, she will overcome her jealousy and make the right decision and want him to live even though the consequences would not be in her favor. She also has to not let her pride stand in the way. She feels betrayed, but she still needs to make the right choice.
Reference: The Language and Literature Book by McDougal Littell
in the king arena what determines guilt or innocence?
A princess is part of a semi barbaric family. She has fallen in love with a prince. He is handsome and brave. The king does not want this so he has accused the prince of a crime. Sending him into an arena where he has two doors to choose from. One holds his life and a beautiful maiden, while the other holds certain death. He is certain he can charm the princess and she will give him love and not death. The author ends the story and we never know what happens which is called an ambiguous ending. Letting the reader choose his own ending. Giving you the chance to know your own thoughts and selfish reasoning.
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