How does conflict create suspense and maintain the reader's interest in "The Lady or the Tiger" by Frank Stockton?Also discuss how conflict is important to the plot.

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kimfuji eNotes educator| Certified Educator

First of all Frank Stockton was known as a humorist and satirist as was Mark Twain. However, his style and voice requires some understanding of the history of political satire to be able to understand. His narrative style is such that he "talks" to the reader. In the story when the King's ruling style is presented it is done so in a tongue in cheek sort of way. In other words, the author was commenting on society in this fairy tale sounding story. When we know that, as readers, we know the story is really not a fairy tale.

In short the conflict exists on two levels: on one level it is a conflict between what the reader expects to happen within the confines of the traditions of this storytelling genre and what really happens. Of course in the kind of typical fairy tale the character's defects are presented clearly and they are punished for their defects. In a sense, the outcome is almost predictable. However in Stockton's story this is not true. The ending is what the reader chooses based upon his or her insights into human behavior. On another level, the conflict is between fate and human control. In the typical fairy tale it is always according to fate. In other words, the Princess has control over the "fate" or outcome of her lover. Or does she ? If he knows she is devious and like her father then perhaps he will choose the other door, in defiance to her instruction.

Conflict is essential to the plot because without it, this would be just another fairy tale.