Introduction to The Lady, or the Tiger?

“The Lady, or the Tiger?” is a short story by Frank R. Stockton that was first published in the Century in 1882. It is Stockton’s most famous work, and it has been a popular choice for inclusion in short story anthologies since its publication. The story first introduces a “semi-barbaric” king who has implemented a unique form of justice within his kingdom: if the king believes that someone has committed a crime, they are placed in an arena and forced to choose blindly between two identical doors. Behind one door is a beautiful lady who will promptly become the accused’s wife; behind the other door is a tiger. “The Lady, or the Tiger?” is notable for its departure from the traditional structure of narrative fiction. Though the events of the story are presented in an almost fairy-tale-like manner, the ending proposes a thought experiment, asking readers to decide the outcome of the story based on the information provided.

A Brief Biography of Francis Richard Stockton

Francis Richard Stockton (1834–1902) was an American writer who enjoyed considerable popularity during the latter half of the nineteenth century. Stockton was born the son of a conservative minister, who heavily discouraged his son’s literary aspirations. It was only after his father died that Stockton truly began writing in earnest. His stories were often humorous, whimsical affairs, combining folkloric traditions with philosophical or societal conundrums. His best known work, the short story “The Lady, or The Tiger?”, is a prime example of Stockton’s blend of seriousness and irreverence. Stockton’s narrative style and unique approach to communicating with his readers has occasionally drawn comparisons to fellow contemporary author and humorist Mark Twain.

Frequently Asked Questions about The Lady, or the Tiger?

The Lady, or the Tiger?

The princess in the story "The Lady, or the Tiger?" is described as having a "soul as fervent and imperious" as her "semi-barbaric" father, who is depicted as a rather cruel and unusual ruler. He...

Latest answer posted October 30, 2020, 1:34 pm (UTC)

5 educator answers

The Lady, or the Tiger?

Frank Stockton adopts a tongue-in-cheek tone in "The Lady, or the Tiger?" Tongue-in-cheek writing pretends to be straight-faced and sincere, but it is really joking and ironic. Stockton's narrator,...

Latest answer posted October 31, 2020, 11:35 am (UTC)

2 educator answers

The Lady, or the Tiger?

The princess's internal conflict is instrumental in developing various themes in "The Lady, or the Tiger?" The anguish the princess experiences leading up to the decision demonstrates the...

Latest answer posted November 2, 2020, 7:53 pm (UTC)

3 educator answers

The Lady, or the Tiger?

A sentence that builds suspense is one that grabs readers' attention and provides an indication of the action that is to follow without divulging all of the details. An example of such a sentence...

Latest answer posted November 3, 2020, 8:02 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Lady, or the Tiger?

It is the princess, the king's daughter, who faces a moral dilemma in this story. Her lover, a handsome young courtier of low social status, is being tested in her father's arena. The young man has...

Latest answer posted November 2, 2020, 11:27 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Lady, or the Tiger?

Under the king's rule, justice is dealt in a rather macabre fashion that leaves the allegedly guilty party's fate up to chance. Anyone believed by the "semi-barbaric" king to be guilty of a crime...

Latest answer posted November 2, 2020, 12:51 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Lady, or the Tiger?

The princess's hatred toward the lady behind the door stems from jealousy and envy. In Stockton's short story "The Lady, or the Tiger?" a semi-barbaric king discovers that his daughter, the...

Latest answer posted November 2, 2020, 7:01 pm (UTC)

3 educator answers

The Lady, or the Tiger?

After the king discovers that his daughter is having an affair with a handsome courtier, he sentences the the young man to stand trial in the arena, where he will have the opportunity to determine...

Latest answer posted November 2, 2020, 11:51 am (UTC)

2 educator answers

The Lady, or the Tiger?

The narrator says that the princess indulges in "grievous reveries" concerning the possibilities for her lover. She knows that behind one door of her father's barbaric arena, a tiger waits to maul...

Latest answer posted November 2, 2020, 11:37 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Lady, or the Tiger?

The king's only child, his daughter, is the "apple of his eye ... loved by him above all humanity," as her personality is quite similar to the king's and she is also very beautiful. The young man...

Latest answer posted November 1, 2020, 12:18 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Lady, or the Tiger?

Stockton's narrator is being humorous when he says that the completely barbarous king is "semi-barbarous." Stockton uses the term "semi-barbarous" to refer to the ruthless way the king runs his...

Latest answer posted November 1, 2020, 12:02 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Lady, or the Tiger?

The irony in "The Lady, or the Tiger?" is that whatever the princess decides, she loses. Specifically, regardless of which door she signals to her lover to open, she still will lose her beloved...

Latest answer posted November 1, 2020, 11:46 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Lady, or the Tiger?

The moral of "The Lady, or the Tiger?" is communicated in a subtle way. The author ends the story before revealing which door the princess chooses, thus leaving it up to the reader to decide...

Latest answer posted November 1, 2020, 11:34 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Lady, or the Tiger?

It seems pretty clear that the accused person choosing the wrong door, the one behind which waits a bloodthirsty tiger that is eager to gobble him up, is a losing choice. However, behind the other...

Latest answer posted November 1, 2020, 12:01 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Lady, or the Tiger?

The princess is torn between fear and jealousy. Thanks to her father's barbaric principles of justice, her beloved must enter an arena with two doors leading from it. The courtier will be required...

Latest answer posted November 1, 2020, 11:39 am (UTC)

2 educator answers

The Lady, or the Tiger?

There are several reasons why Stockton might have left the end of "The Lady, or the Tiger?" ambiguous. Perhaps one of the clearest reasons is to stimulate discussion and controversy among readers....

Latest answer posted October 31, 2020, 11:28 am (UTC)

4 educator answers

The Lady, or the Tiger?

Poetic justice, generally speaking, refers to the reception of an appropriate or deserved retribution for one's actions. There's a sense, with poetic justice, that a person gets what they deserved,...

Latest answer posted October 31, 2020, 12:02 pm (UTC)

2 educator answers

The Lady, or the Tiger?

The "semi-barbaric king" is arguably the main character in the story, as he's the one responsible for establishing the grim punishment referred to in the title. It was his idea to build a large...

Latest answer posted October 31, 2020, 11:51 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Lady, or the Tiger?

The tiger symbolizes vengeance, or the savagery at the heart of human nature. In the story, the prisoner must choose a door. Behind one door lies a tiger and certain death; behind the other lies a...

Latest answer posted October 31, 2020, 11:50 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Lady, or the Tiger?

Stockton's short story "The Lady, or the Tiger?" has an open ending, and the reader is left to decide whether or not the "semi-barbaric" princess directs her lover toward the door with the lady or...

Latest answer posted October 31, 2020, 11:45 am (UTC)

1 educator answer
Next

Summary