Why did the author of " The Lady, or the Tiger?" consider the king's system of justice perfectly fair?

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In his narrative Frank R. Stockton challenges his reader to guess the outcome, but he also challenges his reader through the use of irony. Indeed, the presentation of the king in the exposition alerts the reader to this irony.  This king is "semi-barbaric" and has an "exuberant fancy"; his authority is "so irresistible" that he turns his desires into facts. Often, he self-communes, and 

when he and himself agreed upon anything, the thing was done...and...nothing please him so much as to make the crooked straight, and crush down uneven places.

And, yet, the author writes that, paradoxically, the king's subjects possess minds that are "refined and cultured." So, it is doubtful that the author truly feels that the king acts fairly. Rather, it seems that the king designs things according to his desires, feeling that what he does is always proper.

In describing what is done to a subject who is accused of a crime, the author presents many details about the doors and the tiger behind the doors that are placed arbitrarily so that no one knows.  
The manner that the subjects must react is also described. Everything is arranged, no one can interfere with "his great scheme of punishment and reward." 

This was the king's semi-barbaric method of administering justice. Its perfect fairness is obvious. The criminal could not know out of which door would come the lady.

This remark about "fairness" is simply that the person charged with a crime could not know which door was the one to choose. No one has any advantage, but this does not mean that the person charged with a crime is treated fairly and justly. It does not mean that the king per se is fair. For, there is no trial; the accused merely is placed in an area where he may be lucky enough to live.

lit24's profile pic

lit24 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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The king considers his method of judging whether a criminal was innocent or guilty perfectly fair because the decison to open either of the two doors was entirely the decision of the criminal concerned, so the king thought that his system was absolutely  impartial and fair: "He (the criminal) could open either door he pleased; he was subject to no guidance or influence but that of the aforementioned impartial and incorruptible chance."

crazykt's profile pic

crazykt | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

The author himself didn't actually think it was fair, he was being ironic

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