In "The Lady, or the Tiger?" does the king believe the accused is responsible for his own punishment?

Although judging a criminal by chance is no real indication of a person's guilt or innocence, the semi-barbaric king in "The Lady, or the Tiger?" in his depraved megalomania, does believe that the accused is somehow responsible for his own punishment or reward.

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In the short story "The Lady, or the Tiger?" by Francis Richard Stockton, a semi-barbaric king institutes a system of judgment based on absolutely random chance. When someone is accused of a crime, he is brought into an arena where there are two doors. Behind one is a ravenous tiger. If the accused opens this door, the ferocious tiger rips him to pieces, and he is judged guilty. Behind the other door is a lovely woman. If he chooses this door, he is immediately married to her with great acclaim, and he is judged to be innocent.

At one point Stockton asks the question, "Did not the accused person have the whole matter in his own hands?" However, he asks this in reference to the thoughts of the mob watching the spectacle, not the king. To attempt to discover what the king believes, we have to analyze the author's descriptions of him.

The king has absolute power; Stockton writes that "when he and himself agreed upon anything, the thing was done." He has set up the bizarre public arena so that his subjects will become more "refined and cultured" and as "an agent of poetic justice, in which crime was punished. Or virtue rewarded, by the degrees of an impartial and incorruptible chance." This system of justice is of course no justice at all. Under a penalty such as this, often a criminal would be rewarded, and an innocent man would be punished.

The accused "could open either door he pleased: he was subject to no guidance or influence but that of the aforementioned impartial and incorruptible chance." In the king's semi-barbaric opinion, this constitutes "perfect fairness." The king's viewpoint is summarized in this way:

The decisions of this tribunal were not only fair, they were positively determinate: the accused person was instantly punished if he found himself guilty; and, if innocent, he was rewarded on the spot, whether he liked it or not.

We see, then, that according to Stockton, this semi-barbaric king, who has no conception of real justice, truly does seem to believe that the person who is accused of a crime is responsible for his punishment if he chooses the door with the tiger. In the king's twisted logic, pure chance is a viable method of assessing guilt or innocence.

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