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

How does "The Lady, Or the Tiger?" end?

The story "The Lady, or the Tiger?" ends with the courtier approaching the door that the princess has directed him toward. Because Stockton leaves the ending up for interpretation, the reader must decide for themselves what door the princess directs her lover toward after examining her personality and motivation.

Expert Answers

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

Stockton's short story "The Lady, or the Tiger?" has an open ending, and the reader is left to decide whether or not the "semi-barbaric" princess directs her lover toward the door with the lady or the door with the tiger. The story ends with the young courtier in the arena and meeting the princess's eyes as she directs him toward a certain door. The reader is aware that the princess knows what lies behind each door but is forced to analyze her character and decide for themselves what door she directs her lover toward.

Just after the princess directs her lover toward the door on the right, Stockton writes, "Now, the point of the story is this: Did the tiger come out of that door, or did the lady?" Stockton then encourages the reader to examine the princess's character and motivation before making their decision. The reader is forced to view the situation from the princess's perspective and analyze her jealous, imperious nature. Stockton proceeds to elaborate on the princess's personality, and the reader recognizes that she will be devastated whether the courtier lives or dies.

If the courtier lives, the princess will be forced to watch her lover marry the beautiful maiden, which, for her, might be a worse experience than witnessing him die a brutal death. Either way, the princess will be losing her lover, and the reader must determine for themselves what decision she makes. The story involves the study of the human heart, and Stockton leaves the ending open to interpretation.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team