How are people punished or rewarded under the king's system of justice in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"?Frank R. Stockton's "The Lady or the Tiger"

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Frank R. Stockton's "The Lady, or the Tiger?" is a story of much verbal irony.  The narrator declares that the king employs his vast amphitheater as "an agent of poetic justice," in which crime and virtue are rewarded "by the decrees of an impartial and incorruptible chance."  In the ampitheater, the accused subject is sent out into the arena.  There, directly opposite him are two doors, each exactly alike:

It was the duty and the privilege of the person on trial to walk directly to these doors and open one of them....He was suject to no guidance...but that of the aforementioned impartial and incorruptible chance.

Behind one door there is a beautiful maiden to whom he must be immediately married, whether the prisoner is married already or not; and, behind the other is a fierce tiger who will tear him to pieces "as a punishment for his guilt."  When this happens, "doleful bells" ring and a wail is heard from hired mourners.  This, the narrator states, is "the king's semibarbaric method of administering justice.


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