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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The king's method of administering justice in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

Summary:

The king's method of administering justice involves a public trial where the accused must choose between two doors. Behind one door is a lady, symbolizing innocence and reward, while behind the other is a ferocious tiger, symbolizing guilt and punishment. This method relies on chance rather than evidence and reflects the king's arbitrary and whimsical sense of justice.

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How is justice administered under the king's rule in "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 is placed in an arena that has two doors. Behind one door is a beautiful woman who will become the accused's wife if he chooses that door. Behind the other door waits a tiger who will maul him to death if he chooses that door. The result of his perceived crime is therefore either a presumably happy marriage or a gruesome death, and given that the doors are identical in appearance, the accused has no way of knowing which door has the tiger behind it and which has the beautiful woman.

In this way, criminals are "tried" without a judge or jury and purely by chance. People are invited to come to the arena to watch these accused men make their choice and see what proves to be behind the door they choose. To the king's way of thinking, choosing the door with the tiger implies guilt, and choosing the door with the beautiful woman is a reward for presumed innocence.

In this kingdom, justice involves neither judges nor juries and is left to a random decision between two doors. The accused has an equal chance of walking away free with a beautiful new wife or of being mauled to death by a tiger.

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Describe the king's method of administering justice in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

The semi-barbaric king in Stockton's celebrated short story "The Lady or the Tiger" has a unique method of administering justice. When a subject is accused of a crime that piques the king's interest, he sends out a public notice and the subject is brought to the kingdom's massive amphitheater. Thousands of citizens attend the event to see the fate of the accused subject.

On the day of the event, the accused subject enters the amphitheater alone, walks directly toward the opposite end, and chooses between one of two doors. Each door looks exactly alike, and the accused subject has no former knowledge of what lies behind each door. There is a ferocious, hungry tiger behind one of the doors while a beautiful maiden is patiently waiting behind the other. If the accused subject chooses the door with the tiger behind it, he is brutally mauled to death. If the accused subject chooses the other door, he is instantly married to the beautiful maiden and a massive celebration ensues.

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How do citizens view the king's justice in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

The king's method of justice is poetic justice. This means that the fates or the universe will provide that people are fittingly punished for their crimes. This assumes that "chance" is never "chance" but has the workings of a just god or universe behind it.

The king offers his poetic justice by forcing the accused to choose between two doors: Behind one is a hungry tiger who will devour the victim. Behind the other is a beautiful maiden the accused (always assumed to be a male) will marry with great fanfare.

According to the narrator, this means of dispensing justice is very popular. The citizens of the kingdom enjoy this justice system because it is suspenseful and entertaining. They all gather in a huge amphitheater to watch the proceedings, not knowing what the outcome will be. Either one is satisfying to them. The text states that

the masses were entertained and pleased, and the thinking part of the community could bring no charge of unfairness against this plan, for did not the accused person have the whole matter in his own hands?

However, we do have to take this with a grain of salt. The narrator is dryly tongue-in-cheek, mixing objective narration liberally with the opinions of the tyrannous king, a man who is unwilling to allow dissent. We learn from the narrator, who uses euphemisms to humorous effect, that

nothing pleased him [the king] so much as to make the crooked straight and crush down uneven places.

In other words, were people to find this form of justice bloodthirsty and barbaric, they would know to keep their mouths shut, because the king would be delighted to "crush" them. We might especially imagine that the "thinking part" of the community might not accept the king's contention that his justice system's "perfect fairness is obvious" or that the element of chance behind it is "incorruptible."

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How do citizens view the king's justice in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

In Stockton's celebrated short story "The Lady or the Tiger?" the semi-barbaric king has a unique method of administering justice, which is widely popular throughout his kingdom. When a subject is accused of a crime of sufficient importance and interest to the king, the public is informed that the accused subject's fate will be decided in the king's magnificent amphitheater. Once the arena is filled, the accused subject steps out into the amphitheater and is given the opportunity to choose between two doors. Behind one door is a ferocious tiger ready to attack; behind the other, a beautiful maiden patiently waits. The subject has no way of telling what is behind each door, which is what makes the institution such a thrilling event.
If the accused subject chooses the door with the tiger behind it, he is immediately mauled and killed by the ferocious beast. If the accused subject chooses the door with the beautiful maiden behind it, a massive wedding celebration takes place, and the crowd rejoices at his fortune. Stockton writes,
The institution was a very popular one. When the people gathered together on one of the great trial days, they never knew whether they were to witness a bloody slaughter or a hilarious wedding. This element of uncertainty lent an interest to the occasion which it could not otherwise have attained. Thus, the masses were entertained and pleased, and the thinking part of the community could bring no charge of unfairness against this plan, for did not the accused person have the whole matter in his own hands?
According to the quote, the people approve of the king's unique method of administering justice and are excited to attend the spectacle. Unlike typical gladiator fights or the slaughter of defenseless zealots, the crowd never knows what to expect, and the element of surprise is intriguing. The fact that the massive amphitheater is always packed for the spectacle is a testament to its popularity, and the citizens seem to approve of the king's obviously flawed system of justice.
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How do citizens view the king's justice in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

The king's justice in Frank Stockton's short story "The Lady or the Tiger" involves an arena and pure luck. An accused man is led into an amphitheater where he has the choice of two doors. Behind one door is a tiger which promptly kills him, or from behind the other door is a lady who promptly marries him. If he's lucky, he chooses the lady and, in the king's mind, proves his innocence. The opposite choice proves his guilt.

Stockton tells the reader the institution was widely popular and well attended. He writes,

The institution was a very popular one. When the people gathered together on one of the great trial days, they never knew whether they were to witness a bloody slaughter or a hilarious wedding. This element of uncertainty lent an interest to the occasion which it could not otherwise have attained. Thus, the masses were entertained and pleased, and the thinking part of the community could bring no charge of unfairness against this plan, for did not the accused person have the whole matter in his own hands?

Of course, if you were part of the family of a man who found himself face to face with a hungry tiger you might not think much of the king's justice. Also, if you were a woman who was married to an accused man after he chose the door with a lady, you might not care for it either.

The crowds are particularly interested in the trial of princess's lover. He has been accused of simply being in love with royalty. More than ever, the arena was packed with interested subjects. Stockton writes,

From far and near the people gathered, and thronged the great galleries of the arena, and crowds, unable to gain admittance, massed themselves against its outside walls.

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How do citizens view the king's justice in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

Stockton writes tongue-in-cheek, or ironically, about the tyrannical king who establishes a system of "justice" based on pure chance. We learn of the king that

at his will, he turned his varied fancies into facts.

We are told too that

The institution was a very popular one.

However, it is not clear if it is "popular" because people are terrified to offend this king or because they actually enjoy the spectacle of watching a person, always apparently a male, either being devoured by a ravenous tiger or meeting the beautiful maiden he will marry. We are told that the king enjoys crushing his opponents in order make the path of his will smooth and straight, which suggests people would be likely to go along with what he wants, in order to stay alive.

However, the text does suggest that people might enjoy the spectacle:

When the people gathered together on one of the great trial days, they never knew whether they were to witness a bloody slaughter or a hilarious wedding. This element of uncertainty lent an interest to the occasion which it could not otherwise have attained.

The narrator compares this justice system to the gladiator fights in arenas that were popular in the Roman era. Since human nature is human nature, it is probable that people did enjoy the spectacle, which, like a sporting event, has no predetermined outcomes.

Regardless of the enjoyment of the spectacle, however, we are not told how the people feel about this as a way of dispensing justice. Since only the ideas and will of the king matter, and since he seems oblivious to other people's feelings, it makes sense we wouldn't know.

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How do citizens view the king's justice in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

The citizens of the kingdom greatly applaud the king's method of justice. Because of the unpredictability of any one trial, the people find the king's method of administering justice extremely entertaining.

They never know when they will be witness to "a bloody slaughter or a hilarious wedding." Therefore, the element of "uncertainty" in the proceedings keeps the citizens greatly engrossed in the elements of each trial. To them, the king's trials are moments of either celebratory pomp or unsurpassed violence. They are ready to enjoy either, highlighting the fact that the people are just as "semi-barbaric" as their king.

Also, the people feel that the king's trials are emblems of his fair and impartial judgment. Since each criminal in question has a choice in picking his judgment, the consensus is that he cannot in good conscience level a charge of "unfairness" against the king.

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How do citizens view the king's justice in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

The king in Stockton's "The Lady, or the Tiger?" is described as "semi-barbaric." If the king is only halfway civilized, then it is logical to infer that his subjects are just like he is. If the king loves the fact that his system of justice is based on a chance-driven, marriage or death trial, then his subjects must like it, too. In fact, the king doesn't build the arena and system of justice merely for brutal sport; the text says that he builds the arena "to widen and develop the mental energies of the people." Because trials in the arena present citizens with a suspenseful and uncertain ending each time, it also provides them with excitement. The text says that "the masses were entertained and pleased, and the thinking part of the community could bring no charge of unfairness against this plan; for did not the accused person have the whole matter in his own hands?" This means that most people are entertained when there is a trial in the arena; but, even the intellectuals of the kingdom find no argument because the victim has a choice about which door to choose. That's not saying much for the intellectual community, but they accept the arena for what it is nonetheless. 

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How are people punished or rewarded under the king's system of justice in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

A very simple system of justice rewards or punishes people in this story. This court of justice also doubles as entertainment. It operates on the principle that chance, being impartial, is the best judge: "crime was punished, or virtue rewarded, by the decrees of an impartial and incorruptible chance."

A person--always assumed to be a heterosexual male--who is accused of a crime--is put in a huge amphitheater, where thousands of spectators watch a suspenseful drama unfold. The accused is faced with two doors. Behind one is a hungry tiger, ready to pounce and devour the person. Behind the other is a beautiful maiden, who, if picked, will be the bride of the accused. If the person chooses the door behind which the tiger waits, he is considered guilty, and the audience can watch as chance dictates a gruesome death. If he picks the door hiding the maiden, his marriage is celebrated with music and a parade of people enjoying the occasion. Everybody has a good time--except of course the poor souls devoured by the ravenous tigers.

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How are people punished or rewarded under the king's system of justice in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

The narrator of Stockton's "The Lady, or the Tiger?" describes the king's semi-barbaric method of administering justice as "perfect" in its fairness. 

When a subject is accused of a crime that arouses enough interest in the king, his subjects are summoned to assemble in the galleries of the amphitheater. The king sits on his throne with his court in an elevated section, and the accused is summoned to the arena of the amphitheater. There, opposite the accused are two doors beside each other, exactly alike in appearance. This person charged with a crime must approach these two doors and open one of them. Either door can be opened.

He was subject to no guidance or influence but that of the aforementioned impartial and incorruptible chance.

Behind one door is a fierce, hungry tiger which will spring on the accused and tear the person to pieces as punishment; professional mourners then appear and the subjects file out with heads bowed in sorrow that one so young has met such a fate. 
Behind the other door there is a lovely maiden, and the accused is married immediately as a reward for his innocence. If the accused is already married this does not matter because the king "allowed no such arrangements to interfere" with his reward for innocence. Then, the happy couple departs, followed by a band of choristers and dancing maidens who blow golden horns, creating a merry tune. People shout happily and children strew flowers in their path.

This is king's method of justice; "its perfect fairness is obvious." For, the accused cannot know which door will hold the tiger or the lady. Certainly, too, the judgments of the king are swift and final.  

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How are people punished or rewarded under the king's system of justice in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

When I was a lad, my brother read me this story (or perhaps directed me to read it). What we found so fascinating was the idea that the story has no ending; you never find out what was behind the door!  So imagine my surprise when as a college class with my favorite English professor was ending for the day, he gave us all copies of the story and asked us to write a short paper giving our conclusion to the issue (was it the lady or the tiger?) with evidence and explanations to support our thesis.  But that wasn't the end of the surprise: as we were about to walk out the door, he suddenly added, "And there IS a right answer!"  Well, this was news to me; there certainly is no official right answer.  

So I went back to my dorm, reread the story, underlining, writing notes in the margins, and so on, and finally came up with my "right" answer.  And the funny thing was, the professor was correct!  Now that I was a better reader, paying careful attention to the details and the characterization, it was absolutely obvious that there could only be one thing behind that door--and I'm NOT telling you!  

So this taught me two interesting things: first, that what had seemed a rather cool idea, a story that had two endings and asked you to choose one for yourself, was really not what the story was about.  It might have seemed that way to my elder brother and me as children, but that was really not the main "point" of the story.  And second, that the skills one learns about how to read, to pay attention to details, to word choices, to characterization, perhaps (though maybe not in this case) to symbols--these are what the story is really about; this is what makes the story so fascinating.  English teachers and professors call such skills "Close Reading."  In a sense, by not "ending" the story, the author was presenting us with a brainteaser, a puzzle, but not one without an answer--rather the answer was there to be found if you knew how to look for it!  

In another class with the same professor (when you find a good one, keep taking classes with that person if possible!), we read D.H. Lawrence's novel Sons and Lovers.  I recall staying up late to finish the book on time and then reporting to the class.  Now I'd read it, and tried to think about it; however, I was simply astounded by the brilliant lecture the professor gave explicating the book.  I was so impressed that I went up to him after class and sort of complained: "I read it.  I thought about it.  And I didn't see any of that stuff you pointed out today in class until you pointed it out, and then I saw it was all true.  What's wrong with me?"  His answer was one of the most important moments in my education: "But you're only a freshman!" he said.  "Maybe, by the time you graduate, you'll learn how to read a book."  

Now I was a freshman in college at the time.  So years later, when I became a high school teacher, I used to remind myself of this story and even tell my students about it.  "I was a freshman in college; you are only sophomores in high school!"  Still, my motivation in becoming a teacher was the hope that my students would know a lot more about how to read a book when they got to college than had been taught to me in high school.  This is why teachers get frustrated when students ask, "But why can't we just read the story?"  To an English teacher, the fun of reading a story isn't just the plot, or humor, or characters--the fun is analyzing the text and seeing things that other people who just "read the story" might miss.

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How are people punished or rewarded under the king's system of justice in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

"The Lady or the Tiger?" by Francis Richard Stockton posits a quasi-mythical kingdom in which the king has absolute power. This king created an arena modeled on the Roman arenas. Criminals were placed in the arena and had to choose between two doors. Behind one door was a ferocious man-eating tiger and behind the other door was a beautiful woman. There was no way for the criminal to know which was behind which door, and thus the choice was random, rather like flipping a coin.

If the criminal chose the tiger, he would be killed and eaten. If he chose the woman, he would be obliged to marry her. One should note that this kingdom must either have lacked female criminals or permitted same-sex marriage for this system to be universally applicable.

In some ways, this is based on a notion that chance reflected the will of the gods, and echoes such practices as the Athenian selection of magistrates by lot. 

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What is the king's system of punishment in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

In this story, the king uses what the narrator calls "poetic justice," meting out justice in a large ampitheater he had built for that very purpose. The accused is taken into the ampitheater and before a great crowd has to choose between two doors. Out of one will come a hungry tiger, who will devour the man. In this case, the man is considered guilty of the crime to which he had been accused. If the man selects the other door, a woman will come out, chosen to be as perfect as possible a mate for the man. If the man picks this door, he is considered innocent and would be expected to marry the woman who emerges, even if he already had a wife.

As we know, the daughter of the king has it in her power to signal to her lover which door to pick.

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How does the king administer justice in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

Frank Stockton's "The Lady, or the Tiger?" is a unique story in that it has no finished ending, and the narrative is so ironic. One of the ironies is the description of the king in the story's exposition as the ruler is described as "semi-barbaric" and of an "exuberant fancy and an authority so irresistible" that his wishes are autocratically accomplished. For, he communicates only with himself and whenever "he and himself" agree about anything, that is what is done.

1. This king has had a vast amphitheater built with secret passages, and large "encircling galleries" built especially for administering poetic justice where crime is punished and innocence rewarded by "the decrees of an impartial and incorruptible chance." 

In reality there is merely chance, not justice. If one of the king's subjects is accused of a crime that interests him enough, he orders that the accused person's fate is decided in the arena of his amphitheater where his subjects all assemble. When the king gives a signal, the accused comes out into the arena. Across from the prisoner are two doors; he must then choose one of these doors. Behind one door is a hungry tiger who will attack and kill the accused, while behind the other door is a lady who matches the accused in age and they are immediately married "as a reward for his innocence." If the man is already married, the king does not allow this to interfere with his plan of punishment and justice.

2. After the king discovers a young man with his daughter, the "semi-barbaric princess," he decides that the young man must be punished; therefore, this accused person is sent out into the arena in order to choose one of the two doors. On the appointed days, the princess sits above watching her lover as he stands in the arena. Although she possesses the secret of who is behind which door, the princess has trouble deciding which door to point to if her lover looks up at her. For, she has seen the young lady behind the one door and knows that this "fair creature" has displayed interest in her lover who has returned her glances, and she has enough barbarism and jealousy in her to want to keep her lover from this lady, even if it means his destruction. Yet, she does love him, so she is conflicted.

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How does the king in "The Lady, or the Tiger?" determine justice and why is it seen as fair?

The semi-barbaric king's approach to justice has little to do with the proven innocence or guilt of the accused. Because the accused party selects his own punishment when he chooses a door (and by the way, only men seem to be capable of potentially criminal behavior in this particular kingdom), the king is able to justify in his own mind the inarguable fairness of his judicial system: the criminal chose to do something morally questionable, therefore the criminal chooses his own consequence.

Clearly, this system is flawed in many ways. The accused criminal has no agency when it comes to the door selection situation in the first place. As well, in many cases, the door obscuring the lady may conceal a punishment only somewhat less terrifying than the tiger, despite the fact that she is young and pretty; what if the accused was already happily married? Or what if the lady and the accused didn't actually like each other? A marriage to someone unsuitable can be a punishment in its own right, so the king is not actually providing a fair reward for innocence.

The narrator does not state that the king's subjects find this system perfectly fair. They enjoy the spectacle it provides, and "the thinking part of the community could bring no charge of unfairness against this plan," but enjoyment and denial do not mean tacit agreement.

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How does the king in "The Lady, or the Tiger?" determine justice and why is it seen as fair?

The "semi-barbaric" king in Frank Stockton's short story "The Lady or the Tiger" develops a justice system which is based totally on the whims of fate. Accused prisoners are tried in the arena where they have the choice of two doors. Behind one door is a tiger which kills him, thus proving the man's guilt. Behind the other door is a woman who promptly marries him, proving his innocence. In reality, it is quite a fickle form of justice and not based on anything other than good or bad luck. 

Because of the sheer luck involved and the fact that the prisoner made his own choice made the institution appear completely impartial to the subjects of the kingdom. Stockton writes,

Its perfect fairness is obvious...Thus, the masses were entertained and pleased, and the thinking part of the community could bring no charge of unfairness against this plan, for did not the accused person have the whole matter in his own hands?

The perfect fairness of this justice comes under question, however, in the final part of the story when the princess discovers the secret of the doors when her lover is accused of a crime. The fact that someone could discover from which the tiger or from which the lady would emerge compromised the entire process and rendered the king's justice quite corrupt. 

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Why did the author of "The Lady, or the Tiger?" consider the king's system of justice perfectly fair?

In his narrative Frank R. Stockton challenges his reader to guess the outcome, but he also challenges his reader through the use of irony. Indeed, the presentation of the king in the exposition alerts the reader to this irony.  This king is "semi-barbaric" and has an "exuberant fancy"; his authority is "so irresistible" that he turns his desires into facts. Often, he self-communes, and 

when he and himself agreed upon anything, the thing was done...and...nothing please him so much as to make the crooked straight, and crush down uneven places.

And, yet, the author writes that, paradoxically, the king's subjects possess minds that are "refined and cultured." So, it is doubtful that the author truly feels that the king acts fairly. Rather, it seems that the king designs things according to his desires, feeling that what he does is always proper.

In describing what is done to a subject who is accused of a crime, the author presents many details about the doors and the tiger behind the doors that are placed arbitrarily so that no one knows.  
The manner that the subjects must react is also described. Everything is arranged, no one can interfere with "his great scheme of punishment and reward." 

This was the king's semi-barbaric method of administering justice. Its perfect fairness is obvious. The criminal could not know out of which door would come the lady.

This remark about "fairness" is simply that the person charged with a crime could not know which door was the one to choose. No one has any advantage, but this does not mean that the person charged with a crime is treated fairly and justly. It does not mean that the king per se is fair. For, there is no trial; the accused merely is placed in an area where he may be lucky enough to live.

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Why did the author of "The Lady, or the Tiger?" consider the king's system of justice perfectly fair?

"The Lady, or the Tiger?" is, at its core, an ironic tale.  There is a world which doesn't really exist, a kingdom which existed long, long ago, and a semi-barbaric king.  He thinks it's perfectly reasonable to determine guilt or innocence by standing in front of two doors behind which is the most eligible lady in the land or a hungry tiger.  He sits "blandly" in the stands and watches his particular form of justice unfold, without showing too much emotion for either outcome.  He is satisfied that justice has been done.  This is the kind of understatement typical of irony--a contrast between what is said and what is meant.  It's similar in tone to Swift's "A Modest Proposal," in which he puts forth the "perfectly reasonable" idea that since there are too many mothers having too many babies we should sell them and eat them.  (They are most delicious in a fricassee, he has heard.)  The very reasonableness of his tone contrasts with the outrageousness of his suggestion.  Likewise, the very reasonableness of this form of justice is in direct contrast with the barbarism of the practice. 

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What was the king's method of trial in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

In Stockton's "The Lady or the Tiger?" the king is characterized as semi-barbaric. This means that he is somewhat civilized, but adheres to a barbaric way of life as well. As a result, his judicial system is based less on fairness and facts and more on violence and chance. There is no jury and no consideration of evidence or testimony. There is only the arena.

The arena is where any "criminal," as decided by the king himself, sends everyone—no matter how simple or complex the crime. When a subject enters the arena, he must choose one of two doors and take his chance as to whether he will be killed by a vicious tiger, or open the door behind which is a young lady whom he must marry and live with for the rest of his days. The king believes that this system is the best way to conduct justice for the following reasons:

"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."

Therefore, anyone thrown into the arena is at the mercy of chance. If he chooses the lady, he may live, but he must marry the girl. If he chooses the door with the tiger behind it, he will surely die.

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What is the king's method of accusation in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

In Stockton's short story "The Lady and the Tiger," the semi-barbaric king has a unique and unusual method of administering justice, where accused citizens decide their own fate between two choices and the outcome is on public display. The semi-barbaric king had an enormous amphitheater constructed for the sole purpose of publicly administering justice, which is an extremely popular event throughout his kingdom. The king's subjects would gather in the amphitheater to watch an accused citizen choose between one of two doors on the opposite end of the arena, which would immediately determine their guilt or innocence. Behind one of the doors is a ferocious tiger, which would leap out from behind the door and instantly kill the accused man. Behind the second door, there is a beautiful woman, who is perfectly suited for the accused man. If the accused man were to pick the door with the lady behind it, they would be married immediately in front of the masses and the entire arena would erupt in celebration. It is also important to note that the accused citizen has no prior knowledge of which door to pick and cannot discern what lies behind each door at all, and his innocence completely relies on fate.

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What is the king's method of accusation in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

I assume what you're asking is what is the king's method of punishing criminals in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"  This semi-barbaric king has established an arena, open to the public, which is the seat of justice for his kingdom.  Here, all who are accused come to face their fate, which comes in the form of choosing one of two doors.  Behind one door waits the most beautiful maiden in the land; if that door is opened, the apparently innocent victim will be immediately married to her.  (I've always wondered why all criminals in this kingdom were men, but that's another story!)  Behind the other door is a hungry tiger who will immediately devour the apparently guilty victim.  This system relies on fate, of course, and the outcomes are both spectacular enough to draw thunderous crowds each time someone has been sent to the arena.  Obviously the story is ironic, and this perfectly reasonable system of justice is actually outrageous and inherently unjust. 

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Describe the king's justice system in "The Lady, or the Tiger?" by Frank Stockton.

The so-called "semi-barbaric" king in Frank Stockton's short story "The Lady or the Tiger" has worked out what he thinks is the perfect system of justice. In the king's plan, the accused presents himself before the king and the townspeople in an arena. Inside the arena are two doors, and the accused is told to choose one of the doors.

He has no way of knowing which one to choose. What he does know is that behind one is a tiger, waiting to devour him, and behind the other is a beautiful lady who will become his wife.

If the accused chooses the tiger, he will, of course, be eaten, and iron bells will ring in mourning. Paid mourners will bow their heads and lament that the accused surely does not deserve such a horrible fate, and wails will be heard from the audience.

If, on the other hand, the accused chooses the lady, a priest comes out and marries the two on the spot even if the man is already married to someone else!  Dancing ladies and singers come out and celebrate, brass bells happily ring, and a big party ensues.

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