The short stories "Poison" and "The Lady or the Tiger" share the common element of death hiding in wait. With "Poison" the character Harry may have a krait (an extremely poisonous snake) curled up asleep on his stomach. Because of the sheet there is no way for the characters in the story to know if Harry is telling the truth or whether he is delusional. In "The Lady or the Tiger" the lover of the princess faces the possibility of death by being torn apart by a tiger. Because the doors have been soundproofed there is no way to know which of the two doors holds the beautiful wife and which holds the deadly tiger. The external conflict of "crouching death, waiting to pounce" is the main point of tension in both stories. Both stories also generate a similar question at the end: was there in fact a snake on Harry's stomach, and did the lover die or get married at the end of the story?
Both stories also describe the internal conflict of a major character over how to deal with the possibility of death. In "The Lady or the Tiger," the princess must debate whether she should tell her lover to open the door with the lady and watch him marry a woman she believes is her rival, who she hates, or choose the door with the tiger and watch him die because she cannot bear to share him with another woman? In "Poison," Dr. Ganderbai debates his choices: to remove the sheet quickly and push off the snake or to use the chloroform to put the snake to sleep so it can be removed without danger. Toward the end of the story, when Harry reveals his prejudice against Indians, the reader is left to wonder if Ganderbai would have made the same decisions if given the chance again.