What are a few literary elements used in Stockton's short story "The Lady or the Tiger?"

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mwestwood eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Frank R. Stockton's "The Lady, or the Tiger?" is considered a tale rather than a story because it approaches allegory with characters who are more representative than real, and it is written in a mannered style, with the elemental human emotions of love and hate and self-preservation developed in the narrative.

This tale also contains irony and ambiguity, elements of satire. As the narrative begins whimsically as though it were a fairy tale, the king is described in what one critic calls "biblical language" that is also political satire.

He was a man of exuberant fancy, and, withal, of an authority so irresistible that, at his will, he turned his varied fancies into facts. He was greatly given to self-communing; and when he and himself agreed upon any thing, the thing was done.

Another example of satire is in this description of the subjects' minds being "refined and cultured" by semi-barbaric exhibitions:

Among the borrowed notion by which his barbarism had become semified was that of the public arena, in which, by exhibitions of manly and beastly valor, the minds of his subjects were refined and cultured.

The narrator uses verbal irony as he describes the king's nature as "bland and genial" and then "blander and more genial still" if there were a "little hitch, and some of his orbs got out of their orbits." Certainly, putting people to death is not done by someone whose nature is "bland and genial." The phrase "Little hitch" is hyperbolic (an obvious exaggeration) since the king's "orbs got out of their orbits," meaning things were not going as he wanted. Also, this brutal king would not consider something which does not work out as he desires as a "little hitch."

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Icie Brekke eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Francis R. Stockton uses point of view, verbal irony and ambiguity, among other devices, to tell a story worthy for all literary or writing classes to read and discuss throughout the ages. First, the story is written from a 3rd person, omniscient narrator who describes the thoughts and motivations of the characters. This perspective gives the audience understanding into the thoughts, feelings, and personality of any character. Next, one of the best lines that shows verbal irony is when the king's understanding of his system of justice is announced as "It's perfect fairness is obvious." Clearly, the system is obviously not fair because the punishments do not fit the crimes of those placed in the arena. This line helps to provide tension in the story. Finally, the reader is left with an ambiguous ending that leaves him/her hanging or wondering what the outcome really was. Using this device allows the author to leave a question in the reader's head that must be thought about in a deep way, thereby bringing power to the text and story.

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