The Lady or the Tiger? Questions and Answers
by Francis Richard Stockton

The Lady or the Tiger? book cover
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Explain the ambiguity at the end of "The Lady or the Tiger?" (Why is the ending ambiguous?)

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The ambiguity of the ending of "The Lady or the Tiger?" is based entirely on the feelings and motivation of the "hot-blooded, semi-barbaric princess." When her lover is in the arena and looks to her for guidance:

She raised her hand, and made a slight, quick movement toward the right.

Her lover has complete trust in her. But how well does he know her? How well does any man know any woman?

Without the slightest hesitation, he went to the door on the right, and opened it.

The fact that the lover shows such complete faith in the love of the princess may be intended to suggest that men do not really understand women very well at all. No doubt, different readers would have different takes on this story, depending on their gender.

Now, the point of the story is this: Did the tiger come out of that door, or did the lady?

The princess knows which door conceals the tiger and which conceals the lady whom she passionately hates.

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 ancestors, she hated the woman who blushed and trembled behind that silent door.

The author keeps using the word "barbaric." It is up to the reader to guess whether the beautiful lady comes out and marries the princess's lover or whether the tiger comes out and tears the poor, trusting man to shreds. In either case, the princess is going to have to observe an event that will be...

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