In "The Lady or the Tiger?" by Frank Stockton, what happens after the tiger tears a man to pieces?

1 Answer | Add Yours

auntlori's profile pic

Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Frank R. Stockton's short story "The Lady or the Tiger?" is set in a "very olden time," where "there lived a semi-barbaric king." In this semi-barbaric kingdom, justice was always delivered in a perfectly fair way. He built an arena not for entertainment but as an instrument of justice.

When someone was accused of a crime "of sufficient importance to interest the king" in this kingdom, he was taken to the arena, "an agent of poetic justice, in which crime was punished, or virtue rewarded, by the decrees of an impartial and incorruptible chance." Crowds would gather and wait to see what fate would decide. 

The king sat on his throne, and right across from him were two identical doors. Behind one of them was the fiercest, cruelest, hungriest tiger to be found in the kingdom; behind the other was the most beautiful woman in the kingdom. The prisoner's fate was always in his own hands. If he opened the door with the tiger, he was eaten alive; if he opened the other door, he was immediately married to the waiting woman.

You specifically mentioned the tiger, and Stockton describes it this way:

If he [the prisoner] opened the one, 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.

Your question asks what happened after the prisoner was eaten by the tiger. Stockton continues:

The moment that the case of the criminal was thus decided, doleful iron bells were clanged, great wails went up from the hired mourners posted on the outer rim of the arena, and the vast audience, with bowed heads and downcast hearts, wended slowly their homeward way, mourning greatly that one so young and fair, or so old and respected, should have merited so dire a fate.

Unlike the great arenas in which gladiators routinely fought wild animals or each other, in this arena the crowds are moved by the death of the prisoner. There is no cheering or shouting; semi-barbaric justice has been served and the crowd must be content. 

Sources:

We’ve answered 318,936 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question