The Lady or the Tiger? Questions and Answers
by Francis Richard Stockton

The Lady or the Tiger? book cover
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Who came out of the door, the lady or the tiger, in "The Lady or the Tiger"?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Stockton purposely created an open-ended story where the ending is ambiguous and the reader must decide for themselves whether the princess instructed the courtier to open the door with the lady or the tiger behind it. The reader is forced to view the situation from the princess's point of view and cannot rely upon their own judgment.

Most readers would instruct the courtier to open the door with the beautiful maiden behind it in order to complete the pleasant love story. However, Stockton cleverly portrays the semi-barbaric princess as an extremely jealous woman, who hates the beautiful maiden for having the opportunity to marry her lover. By viewing the situation from the hostile, semi-barbaric princess's point of the view, the reader must interpret her motivations regarding whether to allow the courtier to live or lead him to certain death.

Overall, Stockton purposely leaves the ending open to interpretation, and the reader must decide which door the princess guided the courtier to open. Readers with a darker view of humanity tend to think the princess guided her beloved courtier to certain death by instructing him to open the door with the tiger behind it.

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ajacks eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The beauty of Frank R. Stockton’s “The Lady, or the Tiger?” is that the reader never does discover who, or what, is behind the door that the courtier opens at the end of the story. The princess does know which door the lady is behind, though, and even though she gives her lover a signal to open the right-hand door, the reader is still left with doubts.  The woman behind one of the doors is a rival of the princess for her lover’s favors, and the princess can’t bear the thought of her marrying her lover.

So, the decision is left up to the reader. The author first wrote the story to generate discussion at a party in the 1880’s, and he did such a great job with it that it still causes plenty of discussion to this day.

 

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