What is the larger question that Stockton poses to the reader about human nature and the nature of love in "The Lady or the Tiger"?
In the narrative of "The Lady, or the Tiger?" Frank R. Stockton poses larger questions about the influence of heredity in one's nature and what it is that deeply affects one's heart in love.
While posing such questions, Stockton, however, does not provide enough clues for the reader to make judgments because he does not develop sufficiently his characters. Instead, his story takes the form of allegory as the characters are types, rather than fully developed personages. Certainly, the king removes himself from any character development with his simple system of justice. Still, there is more that is human in the princess because she is passionate. For instance, she does love the young man, she feels jealousy when she sees the young man conversing with the "fairest and loveliest of the damsels of the court." Moreover, she goes to necessary lengths to learn who is behind which door in the arena. Yet, Stockton does not develop her character enough for the reader to feel certain as to which door she points when her lover looks at her as there are no earlier details about her feelings. The most development that this character has is in the final paragraphs as she is faced with the dilemma of losing him to the damsel or to death in the jaws of the tiger. Thus, the reader must ask, "Which is stronger--her semi-barbaric nature or her heart?"
The answer, ironically then, comes from within the reader. If the reader is a romantic who believes in the power of love over other natural urges, then the princess will point to the door behind which stands the lovely damsel. On the other hand, if the reader believes more in the urges of force and domination in the individual, the choice will be the other door. Thus, the examination of the nature of these opposing forces lies within the reader rather than within the obscure narrative. Cleverly, Stockton holds his story as a mirror to the reader who must look into themselves for the answer, which will then reveal their own character.
check Approved by eNotes Editorial