What lies at the heart of a woman? This is a question that has tempted many a person to try to find the answer. The Lady and the Tiger is such a story that asks this question. The short story sets up quite an intriguing story and leaves the reader asking some tough questions.
In a long ago time, there lived a semi-barbaric king. He finds a unique way to handle some of the men accused of crimes. The accused man will stand in front of two doors. He must choose a door. Behind one door is a beautiful young woman. If he chooses this door, he will have the woman and marry her on the spot. If, by chance, he chooses the other door, what awaits him is a very hungry tiger. If he chooses that door, the tiger will pounce on him and kill him. The king finds joy in this activity.
"The semi-barbaric king had a daughter as blooming as his most florid fancies, and with a soul as fervent and imperious as his own" this quote sets up the pivotal turning point in the story. She has begun a love affair with a man who is way below her status. The king decides he is perfect for the arena. When the day comes, the princess is waiting with her father. The king doesn't even know what is waiting behind which door. The princess made sure she knows. The man looks at her and she slightly signals towards the right door. He goes and opens it. This is where the author is so creative. Which came out? The author never tells us. Let's take a look at why either door could be the choice of the princess.
If by chance she sent him to the door with the woman waiting behind it, she would lose him to another woman. She knows the woman behind the door. She is in her court. The woman has had her eye on the young man, so the princess knows the woman would be thrilled. She also knows that the man will have to marry the woman right there. She would never be able to be with him. Does she love him enough to let another woman have him? Will she spare his life?
Behind the other door is the tiger. Could the princess lead her lover to his demise? Instead of having the man she loves be with another woman, she could most certainly send him to the door with the hungry tiger. The princess might rather see her lover killed before her eyes instead of seeing him marry another woman. She knows the woman has wanted him, so instead of letting the woman have him, she could become petty and let him be killed. She would rather see him dead rather than see him marry another woman.
There are reasons why the princess would choose either door. We do know, by the quote made of the princess, that she is like her father. Is she as barbaric as he? We don't have the answers. We are left wondering and putting ourselves in her position. The story makes us examine our inner selves to see just what we have hidden inside us. What choice would we make? The last lines of the story are probably my favorite.
"The question of her decision is one not to be lightly considered, and it is not for me to presume to set myself up as the one person able to answer it. And so I leave it with all of you: Which came out of the opened door,-- the lady or the tiger"? This is without a doubt one of my favorite short stories.