What can you say about the story of The Lady or the Tiger?

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Many readers find the short story, “The Lady or the Tiger”, maddening because of the unresolved ending.  My students would always react with, “What?!?” We are not used to stories and movies not tied up neatly at the end, and it can be frustrating to us as readers. We want to know whether the Princess signaled her lover to choose the door with the tiger or the door with the beautiful lady!  However, I think you need to analyze why Frank Stockton might have written the story in the first place.  It is a tale of morality that lends itself to discussion on what is right and what is wrong.  The right thing would be for the Princess to signal to her lover the door with the beautiful woman, thus saving his life.  However, the Princess is “semi-barbaric” which suggests she would rather see her lover die than give him to another woman.   The story asks the reader to find context clues and to speculate about the Princess’ motivation and intentions.  As we interact with the text, we analyze character and motive. I think this is what Frank Stockton wanted his readers to do.

So, I think what you can say about the story is that although frustrating, it does lend itself to debate and the search for what is right.  We will never know that the outcome of the story is, so we might as well enjoy it as a vehicle to discover our own morality.

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