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

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What is an example of personification in "The Lady or the Tiger?" by Frank R. Stockton?

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Jay Gilbert, Ph.D. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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As the previous educator answer states, the amphitheater which the king builds in this story is personified as an "agent" which delivers justice. More than this, even the king's own "exuberant and barbaric fancy" is personified as something so powerful as to be almost separate from the king himself, capable of "asserting itself."

Later in the text, we can find other examples. The "doleful iron bells" which ring out in the arena, for example, are personified in that they themselves are not literally "doleful"—they are not capable of feeling this kind of emotion—but the writer ascribes that emotion to them, rather than to the person hearing their sound. The same applies later to the "gay brass bells" which elicit an opposite emotion in the listener.

Towards the end of the story, the human heart is also personified, imagined as something which can lead its possessor "through devious mazes of passion." In this example, the heart represents the whole person, making it an example of synecdoche also. Synecdoche is when one part of something is used to represent the whole thing.

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One example of personification in "The Lady, or the Tiger?" by Frank R. Stockton is the following:

This vast amphitheater. . . was an agent of poetic justice, in which crime was punished, or virtue rewarded, by the decrees of an impartial and incorruptible chance.

The amphitheater itself is described as a person who can exercise judgment and bring about justice, so an inanimate object is personified (that is, made into a living being). In this example, the amphitheater becomes the agent of justice, rather than the king, which suggests the king does not really accept responsibility for the terrible system of justice he established. Instead, the building itself, with its constantly changing doors containing a maiden on one side and a tiger on the other, becomes the instrument of justice. The personification in this story is a deliberate choice the author makes to emphasize the way in which the king absolves himself of blame for the barbaric system he has established.

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