In F. R. Stockton's story "The Lady, or the Tiger?" who are the static and dynamic characters?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The king, the lady, and the young, handsome courtier are depicted as static characters. Their personalities and perspectives do not change throughout the story, and they do not undergo a significant internal change like a dynamic character. One could argue that the princess is the only dynamic character in Stockton's celebrated short story. The princess is portrayed as being semi-barbaric, like her father, and is initially in love with the young courtier. Her father eventually learns about their relationship and orders the courtier to stand trial in his infamous amphitheater, where the courtier will have to decide what door to choose. Behind one door is a ferocious tiger, and behind the other door is a lovely maiden. When the princess learns the identity of the beautiful maiden, she recalls her lover sharing glances with the maiden and becomes overwhelmed with jealousy and hatred. The princess's change in character and perspective is what makes her a dynamic character. Given Stockton's vivid description of the jealous, resentful princess, many readers believe that she directed the courtier to open the door with the tiger behind it at the end of the story. If this is the case, the princess is certainly a dynamic character, whose opinion and feelings of the young courtier dramatically change from love to hate.

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A static character is one who does not change throughout the story; their personality and motivation never changes. However, a dynamic character is one whose personality or motivation changes through the course of the story or because of some life-changing event. It is difficult with Stockton's story, "The Lady, or the Tiger?" to decide if anyone's character truly changes because the ending is ambiguous. The king, the Lady, and the Courtier remain the same from beginning to end, but they aren't the ones who have to make a life-changing choice. It is the princess who decides to tell her lover which door to open and it is thought this decision that one would be able to see if the Princess is dynamic or static. The Princess is described as semi-barbaric like her father and her father never changes his mind about justice. The question remains at the end of the story, though, if love would persuade the Princess to act against her nature.

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