What is the setting, conflict, and outline in sequential order of events in the story "The Lady, or the Tiger?" Which are the main characters, and which are simply supporting characters?

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The setting of the story is an unnamed, imaginary kingdom of ancient times, ruled by what the narrator calls tongue-in-cheek, a "semi-barbaric" king. In fact, the king, as the narrator's exposition of him shows, is fully a barbaric tyrant, ready to impose his will no matter what the cost or...

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The setting of the story is an unnamed, imaginary kingdom of ancient times, ruled by what the narrator calls tongue-in-cheek, a "semi-barbaric" king. In fact, the king, as the narrator's exposition of him shows, is fully a barbaric tyrant, ready to impose his will no matter what the cost or how irrational his idea. More specifically, most of the story is set in the arena in which "justice" is meted out in his kingdom before a huge audience.

The story's main conflict rages within the king's daughter's heart. Her beloved has been accused of the crime of being in love with her, which is potentially deserving of death because she is so above his station. This means he will have to face the king's system of "poetic" justice. He has to choose between two doors. Behind one is a ravenous tiger who will eat him alive. Behind the other is a beautiful maiden who he will marry to great fanfare if he chooses it. The princess has discovered what will lurk behind each door. She will signal to her beloved what door to pick. However, we never know if it is the door with the tiger or the door with the beautiful maiden. Is she willing to sacrifice herself to save him by watching him marry another woman, or would she prefer he be ripped to shreds?

The sequence of the story goes as follows: We first learn about the king and his system of justice. Then the story zooms into the specifics of the beautiful daughter, her beloved, and the trial that faces him. After that, a great deal of detail is offered about the suspenseful day of the trial, with the huge crowd assembled to watch what door the lover picks. We see him look anxiously at the princess for guidance. We see her indicate that he should pick the right door, and we follow him as he moves without hesitation and opens the door.

Then, suddenly, the action stops. The narrator breaks in and without telling us the outcome, describes the princess's anguish over her decision, then ends without a conclusion:

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?

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"The Lady or the Tiger?" is really, more than anything, focused around a dilemma, and its implications concerning human psychology. With that in mind, spoken purely as a story, the plot is actually quite minimalist in nature.

This story is set in Ancient Times, within a "semi-barbaric" kingdom, where matters of crime and punishment were distilled to a trial by which the condemned would face two doors, behind one of which would lurk a tiger and behind the other a woman to whom he would be married. This custom bound together guilt and innocence, punishment and reward, with all human subjectivity removed from the equation. The condemned would make their choice, and fate (or random chance) would determine whether they'd be found guilty or innocent.

The two central characters at the center of this story are the King's daughter and one of his courtiers who had dared to gain her favor. The King discovered their relationship and imposed this same trial upon the courtier, by which he must choose between the two doors. However, more than anyone else, the story hinges on the princess, who is able to discern ahead of time which door holds the tiger and which one the lady. In many respects, she, more than anyone else, is the central character at the heart of the story, around whom its dilemma revolves.

It is established that the Princess loves the courtier and desires to be with him, but she is also fiercely jealous of the lady he would be married to, should he be found innocent. Thus, this story's conflict is largely an internalized conflict, shaped by the question of which would prove more powerful: her jealousy or affection? Would she rather see the courtier be killed than married to another, or would she rather see him survive, even if his future would not be with her? She knows which door holds which outcome, and when the courtier looks to her for guidance, she holds his fate within her hands. However, the story never does reveal whether she leads him true or false with her selection. To do so would undermine the dilemma that lies at its heart.

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The story "The Lady, or the Tiger?" is set in an unidentified kingdom ruled by a "semi-barbaric" king in the "very olden time," although the "Latin neighbors" referred to suggests that the actual time setting is nebulously during the days of the Roman Empire. The king's method of rule is based upon his tendency for "self-communing" and also the "barbaric" side of his nature—he does not like to take advice from those around him and prefers rather barbaric methods of trial and punishment.

The major conflict in the story is the question of what will happen to the princess's lover. Ultimately, this conflict is not resolved by the author. We know that the lover must choose between two doors, behind one of which is a tiger, and behind the other of which is a lady whom the princess hates. We know too that the princess knows which is which and indicates to her lover which to choose. However, the author leaves it to the reader to decide what fate the jealous princess might choose for her lover.

The basic outline of the story is that when a person is accused in the kingdom of a crime sufficiently interesting to catch the attention of the king, he is subjected to a sort of trial-by-beast: he may open one of two doors, knowing that one conceals a tiger and the other a lady but not knowing which is which. The king has a beautiful daughter, who is besotted with a young man of the kingdom. When the king discovers this affair, he immediately accuses the lover of a crime, although everybody knows the crime is merely fictional.

When the day comes for the trial of the lover, the princess has made herself aware which door is which. The princess knows who the lady behind one of the doors is: she "hated" her because the princess has often imagined her to be flirting with the lover. The lover recognizes that his princess knows which door is which and signals to her with his eyes, asking for guidance; she guides him to one door with her hand. However, the author does not reveal whether the princess is guiding the lover towards his death or into the arms of a hated rival.

The key characters in this story are the princess and the lover. The king, too, is responsible for the central action, and we learn a little about each of their histories, backstories, and motivations. The "lady" in the story, the princess's rival, is really only a side character meant to drive the plot; we learn very little about her.

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