two doorways with an elegant woman standing in one and a large tiger head in the other

The Lady, or the Tiger?

by Francis Richard Stockton

Start Free Trial

Explain the purpose of each door in the short story "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Frank Stockton's short story "The Lady or the Tiger?" is about a "semi-barbaric" king's idea of justice. The king has devised what he believes is the perfect platform for proving guilt or innocence. If a man is accused of a crime, he enters a large amphitheater where he has the choice of two doors.

The doors are exactly the same and sit right across from the king, who has a perfect view of the proceedings. Behind one door is a "hungry tiger, the fiercest and most cruel that could be procured," which promptly kills the man. Obviously this must be quite a spectacle and the galleries of the arena are always full as the institution is a "popular" one.

If the accused opens the other door, he is rewarded with "a lady, the most suitable to his years and station that his majesty could select among his fair subjects, and to this lady he was immediately married, as a reward of his innocence." It doesn't even matter if the man is already married. In the king's world, this method of justice proves final.

Stockton, of course, provides a surprising twist at the end of the story as he never reveals whether the princess's lover eventually opens the door with the tiger, or the door with the lady. He leaves it up to the reader to decide.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team