What is the purpose of the punishments in "Lady or the Tiger"?  

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Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The king's arena in "The Lady or the Tiger" is described by the narrator as:

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

The arena is multi-purpose, serving as judge, immediate punishment or reward, and entertainment for the masses all at the same time.  By allowing the accused to choose whichever door he pleases, the king keeps the proceedings impartial, "for did not the accused person have the whole manner in his own hands?"  The doors held either a ferocious, savage tiger that would devour the accused at once or a lovely lady that he would be married to immediately.  This determinate feature of the arena insured that justice or reward was carried out swiftly, leaving no allowance for second-guessing or even a retrial. 

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The Lady or the Tiger?

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