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 outcome of the doors in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

Summary:

The outcome of the doors in "The Lady, or the Tiger?" is deliberately left ambiguous. The story ends without revealing whether the protagonist faces the lady or the tiger, leaving readers to ponder the character's fate and the princess's decision.

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Did the tiger emerge from the same door in every trial in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

The tiger was not always behind the same door. That is part of what makes the story suspensful. The maiden finds out which door holds the maiden and which holds the tiger, which is usually a secret even to the King. This creates even more suspense because the reader doesn't know which door the maiden sends the young man to open.

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Did the tiger emerge from the same door in every trial in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

No. In fact, that's the source of the suspense in the story. Only the king knows which door has the lady and which the tiger behind it.

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Did the tiger emerge from the same door in every trial in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

If the tiger comes out of the same door in the ampitheatre each time, the element of chance is removed--the "justice" of the semibarbaric king--and the person on trial will know which one to pick in order to keep from dying.  And, it is this element of chance that entertains the people who attend, as well.

Indeed,without this element of uncertainly, the main point of the story is lost.  For, the author, Frank R. Stockton, creates suspense with his descriptions of the "semi-barbaric" princess whose controversial behavior earlier in the narrative creates an ambiguity regarding which door she points to for her lover.  This lover, uncertain of which door holds the tiger and death, and which door holds the maiden and his future, must decide the motives of the princess who has demonstrated previously some jealousy of him.  Finally, this uncertainly is left to the reader to resolve as the author ends the story abruptly.

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Did the tiger or the lady come out of the door in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

Stockton leaves us hanging, ending on the following question:

And so I leave it with all of you: Which came out of the opened door,—the lady, or the tiger?

We know the lady is much like her father, which is to say "semi-barbaric," with his practices strongly favoring his barbaric side. It is, therefore, highly likely that she would do what was in her own interest, rather than sacrifice her needs for another's well-being. We learn that

had it not been for the moiety of barbarism in her nature it is probable that lady would not have been there, but her intense and fervid soul would not allow her to be absent on an occasion in which she was so terribly interested.

In other words, she is completely capable of watching her lover being torn to shreds. At this point, it becomes a mind game. If her lover picks the door she indicates, we might assume a tiger will come leaping out, as she would rather see him die than see him married to her rival. However, the lover would likely know the princess's nature and therefore not pick the door she indicated. In this case, he would choose the door from which would come the lady.

However, what if she anticipated that he would pick the opposite door? Would she indicate the door with the lady, knowing he wouldn't pick it and therefore have the enjoyment of watching him be devoured as a result of distrusting her?

Weighing the odds, the princess's barbarism points in the direction of her not overthinking the situation. Like her father, she probably reasons simplistically, so we could assume she would point her lover to the door with the tiger, and he would be fully aware of this.

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Did the tiger or the lady come out of the door in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

Stockton, the author of the work, deliberately did not give us the "right" answer to this question.  Given that, we can guess and surmise and speculate; however, the answer is still, ultimately, a matter of opinion.

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Did the tiger or the lady come out of the door in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

Think about this people. The story explains about her barbaric nature like her father’s. We are also told that her lover “knows” her true nature. If these things are true, the princess would have directed him to the door with the tiger, but her lover would have known that. Consequently, he would have chosen the door she did not indicate, and he and the beautiful girl would live happily ever after.

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Did the tiger or the lady come out of the door in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

With all due respect, I think #3 needs to look at the quoted section of text more closely. " How in her grievous reveries had she gnashed her teeth, and torn her hair, when she saw his start of rapturous delight as he opened the door of the lady!" The princess did not want him to find happiness with anyone else. She had a barbaric nature, and she knew that the beautiful young woman had cast glances upon her lover, and she had perceived those glances to be returned. This would not been taken lightly, and it is safe to say it would probably not be forgiven. In addition, let us not forget the "savage blood" that coursed through her and the "barbaric" ancestry she came from, and the fact that she hated the woman behind the door. It would seem that due to her barbaric nature she would have not wanted her lover to find happiness with another woman, and so we could assume she guided him to the door with the tiger.

Now with all that being said, we are told also that her lover ". . . understood her nature. . .", so if that is true then perhaps he would know she might not want any other woman to have him, and he would choose the door opposite the one she directed him to. So if the lady came out, perhaps it was because he outwitted his barabic lover.

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Did the tiger or the lady come out of the door in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

After reading this story, it is my opinion, based on the text quote below that the young man chose the door with the Lady behind it. Here is why.  The Princess can't bear to see the young man die at her instruction.

"How her soul had burned in agony when she had seen him rush to meet that woman, with her flushing cheek and sparkling eye of triumph; when she had seen him lead her forth, his whole frame kindled with the joy of recovered life; when she had heard the glad shouts from the multitude, and the wild ringing of the happy bells; when she had seen the priest, with his joyous followers, advance to the couple, and make them man and wife before her very eyes; and when she had seen them walk away together upon their path of flowers, followed by the tremendous shouts of the hilarious multitude, in which her one despairing shriek was lost and drowned!" (Stockton)

The Princess has gone through a great deal to discover the identity of the two doors.  She loves the young man, but she knows that she can never marry him.  The author gives us much more detail about the Princess's reaction to the marriage of the young man and the lady. 

Even though she questions her decision, I think that she signaled him with the door where the lady stood,  because she loved him, and could not bear to lead him to his death.  She would be far more haunted by this idea, knowing that she was responsible for him being torn apart by the tiger.

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Did the tiger or the lady come out of the door in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

Ah, that's the question now, isn't it?  It makes the reader wonder, which was the intent of the author.  By not telling you the ending, he let you create your own (which is why this story is so often used in schools, to generate discussion and even as the source of a writing assignment to provide an ending).  All authors have ways of drawing the reader into the story and making him a co-creator in the story-telling process.  Some are subtle, some (like this) are really "out there."

Sometimes the author will give clues, allowing the reader to draw a reasonable conclusion.  Yet in "The Lady or the Tiger?" no such clues are given, which was deliberate on the part of the author.  Either one could have come out.  It is up to the reader to decide, .  Or else not decide, and wonder about for a long, long time....

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Did the tiger or the lady come out of the door in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

The tiger comes out of the door, but it only does so after the story ends. Within the time-frame of the story, the door opens, and the audience is left waiting to see what will emerge. The author then describes the thoughts of the semi-barbaric princess, who has had to decide whether her lover will find happiness with another woman or be torn to pieces by a tiger.

The idea of the tiger killing the young man is admitted to be terrible, but the terror is dismissed in a brief paragraph consisting of a single sentence. A much longer paragraph then examines in detail how the princess had "gnashed her teeth, and torn her hair" at the thought of her beloved's relief at the joyful life he would lead with the lady, and how they would be married amidst general rejoicing:

Would it not be better for him to die at once, and go to wait for her in the blessed regions of semi-barbaric futurity?

It is clear which of the two options is the most horrifying for the princess. She, like everyone else in the story, is a flat character, and there is no complexity in the way she is drawn to suggest that compassion would win out over jealousy. Clearly, she chooses the tiger.

Or, perhaps not. The whole point of Stockton's story is that even the title is in the form of a question, intended to encourage debate. The case for the tiger is outlined above, but perhaps you can make a more compelling case for the lady. In either case, the reading and the discussion constitute the point.

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Did the tiger or the lady come out of the door in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

In the short story, Stockton does not explicitly state whether or not the young courtier chooses the door with the lady or tiger behind it, and the reader must decide for themselves what is behind the door he opens. The open ending forces the reader to examine the princess's motivation and feelings toward her lover.

In the story, the semi-barbaric king discovers his daughter's love affair with a young, handsome courtier and immediately appoints him to stand trial in his arena, where the young man will have the opportunity to choose a door that decides his fate. Agents of the king also select the most beautiful maiden in the kingdom to stand behind the door opposite of the room housing the tiger.

The princess goes out of her way to discover what is behind both doors and signals to her lover which door to choose as he stands in the arena. Before the young man opens the door, Stockton vividly describes the personality of the semi-barbaric, imperious princess and details her jealous nature and feelings towards the courtier and maiden's previous romantic interactions. The reader recognizes the princess's dilemma and understands that she will lose the courtier either way. Just before the young man chooses a door, Stockton ends the story by asking the reader to determine whether a lady or tiger came out from behind the door.

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Did the tiger or the lady come out of the door in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

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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Did the tiger or the lady come out of the door in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

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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Did the tiger or the lady come out of the door in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

As readers, we don’t know which door the Princess signals her lover to choose.  The story ends before it is told to us.  It’s a little frustrating as readers, but the purpose of the story is to get us to think about moral issues and choices that we make.  If the Princess signals the door with the beautiful woman, she loses her lover to another woman, but, at least, he remains alive.  If she nods towards the door with the tiger, her lover will certainly be killed, and she loses him forever.  So, it’s up to the reader to try to figure out what the Princess does.  Remember, she is described as a “barbarian Princess”, and is that enough to tell us that she would rather see her lover die than in the arms of another woman?  We are left to guess the answer. 

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Did the tiger or the lady come out of the door in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

This is very question that Frank Stockton, the author, proposes to the readers: 

Now, the point of the story is this:  Did the tiger come out of that door, or did the lady?

Stockton directs the reader to consider analyses of characters before writing the denouement to his plot of "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

a study of the human heart which leads us through roundabout pathways of passion, of of which it is difficult to find our way.

As Stockton states, the question depends upon the nature of the princess: 

  • She is the daughter of a semibarbaric king, who has his "most florid fancies, and...a soul as fervent and imperious as his own."   
  • She loves the young man "with an ardor that had enough of barabarism in it tomake it exceedingly warm and strong.

On the other hand, the reader must also consider that

  • She possesses "a white heat beneath the combined fires of despair and jealousy." 
  • She has observed her young man talking with a beautiful girl who has thrown glaces of admiration upon him--or so the princess has imagined.
  • The princess sits pointing to a door; she sits there "paler and whiter than anyone in the vast ocean of anxious faces about her. 
  • The young man realizes that she knows who is behind which door, and he "understands her nature."

With these considerations, the reader is to make the decision.

Based upon your decision, and that the story is written in the style of a tradition fairy tale, but one that has a jarring stop to it, use the appropriate details and style in order to support your response.  Have fun with this brain-teaser.

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