What is the summary of "The Lady, or the Tiger"?

What is the summary of "The Lady, or the Tiger"?

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Laurine Beahan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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“The Lady, or the Tiger?” is a short story written by Frank R. Stockton in 1882. It takes place in a land where a king presides over court using chance to determine people's innocence or guilt. Inside of a public arena are two doors. Behind one is a woman whom the accused must marry if he opens that door. Behind the other is a hungry lion. If that door is chosen by the accused, the accused is considered guilty and will be eaten by the lion.

The king’s daughter falls in love with a man of lower status, and he is brought into the arena to choose a door. The princess learns which door has the tiger and which one has the lady, and she discreetly tells her lover to open the door on the right. However, it is never revealed what was behind that door, so we don’t know if she led him into death or into marriage with another woman.

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jamesk8 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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"The Lady, or the Tiger" begins with a description of a semi-barbaric king who punishes criminals in a unique way.  He has built an arena featuring two doors and the criminal must choose his own fate by selecting one of the two doors.  Behind one door is a hungry tiger that will eat the prisoner alive and behind the other door is a beautiful lady who will be married to the accused on the spot.  The people in the kingdom are very entertained by this.

The king has a beautiful daughter who secretly loves a young man who is a commoner.  The king does not think the young man is good enough for his daughter so he sentences the young man to be put into the arena to choose a door.

The princess loves the young man and does not want to lose him to the ravenous tiger or to another woman in marriage.  The princess knows which fate is behind each door and she also knows who the woman is going to be behind the door.  She hates this woman.

In the arena that day, the young man looks at the princess, expecting her to know which door hides what fate.  The princess makes a motion toward the right-hand door, and this is the door her lover opens.  The story stops exactly at the point he opens the door.  It does not tell his fate.

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