two doorways with an elegant woman standing in one and a large tiger head in the other

The Lady, or the Tiger?

by Francis Richard Stockton
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What is the conflict of each character, and how does each character resolve that conflict in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

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Each of the three main characters in “The Lady, or the Tiger?” is faced with a particularly nasty conflict, yet readers never find out exactly how these conflicts are resolved.

The king has the problem of his daughter falling in love with a man of lower birth. This will never do in the king's eyes, so he immediately uses his system of “justice” to resolve the conflict. The princess's lover is forced into the arena, where he must choose between two doors. Behind one door is a tiger, who will devour him at once. Behind the other is a lovely lady, whom he will marry at once. His “guilt” or “innocence” is determined only by the “fate” of his choice. For the king, the problem is solved either way. The princess's lover will be dead or married.

The princess faces a rather different conflict. She has found out which door is which. She knows exactly where the lady is and where the tiger is, and now the life of her beloved is in her hands. She has agonized over which would be worse, seeing him dead or seeing him married. When her lover looks at her for the answer of which door to open, she slightly raises her right hand.

The princess's lover is, of course, in the worst spot of all when it comes to conflict. He is about to get eaten or get married, and he doesn't know which. He knows that the princess is well aware of what is behind those doors, and he trusts her to tell him.

The princess does tell her lover which door to choose, but the story is left unresolved. The narrator asks readers to decide which door really holds the lady and which really holds the tiger. Whether the lover lives or dies, we never know.

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