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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In his narrative, Frank R. Stockton manipulates language in order to create an ambivalence and light satire so that at the end when he poses his question to readers--"Which came out of the unopened door?"--they are uncertain of the answer.

There is light satire, verbal irony, and some contradictions attached to the language of Stockton's story as he creates such words as "semi-barbaric" and as he juxtaposes other words into incongruous positions, such as "the decrees of an impartial and incorruptible chance." While chance is certainly impartial, the use of the adjective incorruptible and the verb decrees give personification to the word chance, which, in turn, then mitigates the impartiality of chance as a nonentity. The use of verbal irony is evinced in several places, but especially in Stockton's description of the king's system of "poetic justice" with the use of the area closed in by two doors in the arena.

By creating such incongruities, Stockton baffles the readers so that they are uncertain about the natures of the king and his daughter, as well as who might be behind the two doors of the arena. For example, the narrator states that the princess has learned which door holds the maiden and which door holds the tiger; when her lover looks at her, he sees her make a slight movement toward the right. So, he goes to the right door. Is this, then, the door holding the maiden? Or, has the "semi-barbaric nature" and her "hate" for the maiden caused her to direct her lover falsely since he can never be hers again? Still earlier, the narrator states that "she loved him with an ardor that had enough of barbarism in it to make it exceedingly warm and strong." The reader is, thus, nonplussed, confused and unsure as he/she must decide what the language used indicates about the lover's fate was.

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The Lady or the Tiger?

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