two doorways with an elegant woman standing in one and a large tiger head in the other

The Lady, or the Tiger?

by Francis Richard Stockton

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Which lines suggest the king's determinism in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

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In the story The Lady or the Tiger, a semi barbaric king built an amphitheater which he used to pass judgment on people accused of different crimes. However, he played no active role in passing the judgment and left this aspect of the event wholesomely to chance. The accused was presented with two doors, one opened to a fierce tiger that would maul the accused to death if opened and the other opened to a fair maiden who would immediately be married to the accused if opened.

The king’s determinism comes in his attempt to leave justice to chance. He allowed the accused to make a perfect prediction with regards to his life. His prediction guaranteed his life or death and his action to open either would seal his fate. According to determinism the accused fate is not random and by opening either of the doors they instantly confirm the reason behind their fate.

Inference of the king’s determinism can be drawn from the following lines;

This vast amphitheater, with its encircling galleries, its mysterious vaults, and its unseen passages, was an agent of poetic justice, in which crime was punished, or virtue rewarded, by the decrees of an impartial and incorruptible chance.

These lines describe the king’s intentions of building the arena. He decided to leave judgment solely to chance, to punish vices and reward virtues among his people. The individual would open the door out of their free will but the results would be determined through a blend of nature and past events.

No matter how the affair turned out, the youth would be disposed of, and the king would take an aesthetic pleasure in watching the course of events, which would determine whether or not the young man had done wrong in allowing himself to love the princess.

The king in this case would only watch but the determination of guilt or innocence would be achieved by chance in the arena. This would be based on whether the individual was right in nurturing the relationship with the princess or not.

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