How do you write a comparative essay on "The Lady or the Tiger" by Frank Stockton and "The Tell-Tale Heart" by Edgar Allan Poe on the theme consequences of choice?

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The two stories have consequences of choice due to real or perceived guilt in common.

In different ways, both of these stories are about the consequences of a person’s choice.  “The Tell-tale Heart” is about the consequences of the narrator’s choice to murder his roommate.  “The Lady or the Tiger” is about the young man’s choice to date the king’s daughter.  The difference is that in one case the consequences were the result of actual guilt in “Heart,” but the result of supposed guilt in “Tiger.”

In “The Tell-Tale Heart,” the narrator has decided to kill his roommate because the man has an “evil eye.”  He even comments that he loves the old man and has nothing against him.  He does not want to kill him, but he has to because of the eye.  At first, he thinks he has committed the perfect crime.  But then, he still hears the beating of the old man’s heart.  He makes a confession to the police because of this.

“Villains!” I shrieked, “dissemble no more! I admit the deed!—tear up the planks! here, here!—It is the beating of his hideous heart!”

The narrator’s confession comes from his guilt.  He goes crazy because he cannot face the consequences of his choice.  He feels like he is going to be caught.  When he kills the man, the old man screams, and the police come.  The narrator invites the police in, and then he can’t take it.  His guilt gets the best of him, and he confesses.

In “The Lady or the Tiger,” the young man chooses to have an affair with the king’s daughter.  Because of this, he has to face the king’s unusual justice system.  The king built an arena, and any time anyone broke a law or otherwise offended the king, the king left justice up to the fates.  There were two doors in the arena, and the accused had to choose one.  One door had a tiger, and one door had a lady.  The accused was immediately either rewarded or punished.  He considered it a perfectly fair system of justice because there was a fifty-fifty chance. 

The criminal could not know out of which door would come the lady; he opened either he pleased, without having the slightest idea whether, in the next instant, he was to be devoured or married.

In the case of the young man, the guilt is real.  He actually did have an affair with the king’s daughter.  Is this an offense punishable by death?  It depends on your opinion, I suppose.  Whether or not he will be punished depends on whether or not the king’s daughter wants him to die.  If he has been good to her, and treated her well, she might spare him.  However, she might just be barbaric enough to let him die so no one else can have him.  That is a consequence too.

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