Why is the story "The Lady or the Tiger" appealing?Frank R. Stockton's "The Lady or the Tiger"

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The short story, "The Lady, or the Tiger?" by Frank R. Stockton is appealing for a number of reasons.  The principal reason is the fact that is so original and unusual:  there is no conclusion.  The abrupt ending of Stockton's which places the responsibility of finishing the story upon the reader was cause for much heated discussion when it was first published.  Another reason that the story is appealing is in its originality of style:  Stockton apparently writes a fairy tale; however, the whimsical and ironic tone of the narrator turns the traditional form on end. While the narrative involves a jealous princess, a vindictive king, and an ardent suitor--staples of the traditional fairy tale--the princess is put at the center of the conflict. And, it is left to her to decide the suitor's fate after he is found out by the king (he was of too low a position to court the king's daughter).

With the jealousy of the princess who has seen her lover talking with another maiden conflicting with her "ardor that had enough of barbarism in it to make it exceedingly warm and strong," there is much ambiguity regarding to which door she will point.  So, when Stockton abruptly ends the narrative and "leaves" the "question of her decision" to the reader, the reader becomes not only passively, but actively, involved in the story.  This involvement, then, opens discussion upon not only the ending, but Stockton's more subtle intentions in writing such a story.  For instance, some critics, such as Henry Golomba believed that Stockton made use of "cosmic metaphors" in the story:  the young man represents an everyman and the arena is a figure of life itself (enotes).  

At any rate, not only is the narrative exciting with the semi-barbarism of the king and princess giving an ironic edge to the traditional fairy tale, but there are enjoyable opportunities for much debate and discussion on Stockton's tale. 

Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Did you find the story "The Lady or the Tiger?" appealing?  If so, what did you most enjoy about it?  Only you can answer why you found it an enjoyable story to read. On a more universal note, this is a story which has been read and re-read for over a century.  That means there's something there worth reading.  Most people do like this story because it's so unbelievable and barbaric--and yet it's kind of a mesmerizing idea.  There's suspense--which door will he open and what will be behind it?  There's forbidden love--a semi-barbaric princess in love with a lowly chauffeur.   There's a fairy tale element--kings and princesses and kingdoms.  There's a scary element--a voracious tiger waiting to devour a hapless victim.  There's jealousy and the potential of death behind every door--literally.  There's a chance to write your own ending to the story. And more.  What's not to love?


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The Lady or the Tiger?

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