The Lady, or the Tiger? Questions and Answers
by Francis Richard Stockton

The Lady, or the Tiger? book cover
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In "The Lady or the Tiger?" what are the princess's feelings toward the lady? Why does she feel this way?

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Frank Stockton's short story, "The Lady or the Tiger?" has a wonderfully delightful premise because it leaves the question implied by the title unanswered. 

In what is called a "semi-barbaric" kingdom the king has instituted a very unique form of justice. The accused criminal determines his guilt or innocence by choosing one of two doors in an arena populated by the subjects of the kingdom. Behind one door,

"...there came out of it a hungry tiger, the fiercest and most cruel that could be procured, which immediately sprang upon him and tore him to pieces as a punishment for his guilt."

Or, from the other door comes a, "...lady, the most suitable to his years and station that his majesty could select among his fair subjects."

Stockton writes that the institution was popular among the people and at its most interesting when the lover of the king's daughter is accused and set to stand trial. The princess, quite distraught over having her lover subject to the king's justice, faces a terrible dilemma. Through channels that could only be available to someone of such high importance she has discovered the secret of the doors. Not only does she know which door holds the lady and the tiger but she also knows who the lady is. The lady chosen for the princess's lover is one of the most beautiful in the land:

"It was one of the fairest and loveliest of the damsels of the court who had been selected as the reward of the accused youth, should he be proved innocent of the crime of aspiring to one so far above him; and the princess hated her."

Of course the princess hates this lady not only because of the lady's beauty but also because she has seen her lover looking at the lady and even talking to her. She already believes there may be something between the two.

So, the question put to the reader is whether the princess could overcome her "semi-barbaric" nature and have mercy on the young man. Or will she never let the lady have the man because her hatred and jealousy is simply too great?

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