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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Can you provide an example of foreshadowing in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

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Stockton uses verbal irony in the story by describing the king's actions with words that mean the opposite of what he intends.

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In "The Lady or the Tiger" by Frank Stockton, the idea that the princess, like her father, is "semi-barbaric" foreshadows her role in the decision about her lover. She may love him, but she also despises the lady who will become his wife if he should choose the door with the lady behind it. Since the princess is semi-barbaric, she will probably nod toward the door with the tiger behind it. However, if her suitor knows her well, he probably also knows of her semi-barbaric nature and will hopefully then choose the other door--the one the princess did not indicate. Then again, is the princess smart enough to realize her lover will pick the other, and might she just nod toward the lady's door in hopes he will pick the tiger?  We will never know, will we?  

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Foreshadowing is a literary device that gives a hint to the reader as to what might happen later in the story. In Stockton's "The Lady, or the Tiger?" one instance of foreshadowing is based on the king's character. In the beginning it says that the king is semi-barbaric and that whenever he didn't get his way, he didn't pull a fit or do anything emotionally charged, he simply tossed someone into his arena and let fate take care of the problem. In addition, the king believed that his method of justice in the arena was "impartial and incorruptible." These two words are used a few times to show how firm the king believed in this system. Not only that, but he strongly believed that the system was completely flawless because no one could influence the outcome of the victim's choice.

There are two points of foreshadowing here. First, the king's belief in his system of justice is so strong, that even when his daughter's lover is on the line, based on what is said earlier in the text, the reader knows that he won't grant him mercy for any reason--especially not for love. Second, the fact that the king believes his system is incorruptible is just begging to be challenged later on in the story--and it is. The princess finds a way to corrupt the system because she discovers which door the lady will stand behind. In an ironic twist of chance, the decision behind the lover's fate lies solely in the hands of the princess, not necessarily in the arena, and certainly not with the king.  

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What is an example of verbal irony in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

Verbal irony occurs when a sentence or passage in a text means the opposite of what it says. Stockton uses a good deal of verbal irony in this story, directing much of it at the king. For example, he writes the following:

When every member of his domestic and political systems moved smoothly in its appointed course, his nature was bland and genial; but, whenever there was a little hitch, and some of his orbs got out of their orbits, he was blander and more genial still, for nothing pleased him so much as to make the crooked straight and crush down uneven places.

By "blander still," Stockton actually means, ironically, that the king becomes crueler. This passage conveys the fact that the king enjoys crushing all dissent. He is a tyrant who has everything his own way. As the text says,

He was greatly given to self-communing, and, when he and himself agreed upon anything, the thing was done.

This shows that the king actually communes with no one and behaves as a dictator.

We also learn that,

By exhibitions of manly and beastly valor, the minds of his subjects were refined and cultured.

By this, Stockton means that the king offered the spectacle of a justice system in which opening one of two doors decided whether a person was guilty or innocent of a crime. If the person picked the wrong door, a hungry tiger would leap out and eat him in front of a huge amphitheater full of people. Obviously, such a barbaric and cruel spectacle would not make his subjects more refined or cultured. It would result in quite the opposite in fact. The people in this society were subjected to the whims of a tyrant.

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What is an example of verbal irony in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

Verbal irony is a statement that seems to contradict itself.

Irony is basically when words are used in an unexpected way.  Verbal irony means that a phrase involves words where words with opposite meanings are used, such as “clear as mud.”  For example, the idea that a king could be “semi-barbaric” is verbal irony because you are either barbaric or you aren’t.  Another good example of verbal irony is “the rhapsodies of dying gladiators.”  This is because “rhapsodies” are cries of joy, and someone who is dying cries out in pain, not joy.  Then of course, there is “crooked straight.”  The description of the king’s justice ends with a nice bit of verbal irony.

The decisions of this tribunal were not only fair, they were positively determinate: the accused person was instantly punished if he found himself guilty, and, if innocent, he was rewarded on the spot, whether he liked it or not.

This is ironic, of course, because he is rewarded "whether he liked it or not."

The point of all of this verbal irony is that the king thinks that he is creating this perfect system of justice, where the truth is found and there is no human hand in it.  However, ironically (and this is a situational irony and not a verbal irony), the winner is actually found by luck and not by whether or not he actually was guilty or innocent.  He either chooses one door or the other.  He has a fifty-fifty chance.  It’s a coin toss.  Unless you believe in divine-intervention, which this semi-barbaric king does not, there is no guilt or innocence being determined.

Irony abounds in this story, and perhaps most in the fact that it has an ambiguous ending.  How you think it ends tells something about you—perhaps.  It is a psychological instrument.  If you think the lady betrayed her lover, that might tell more about you than about human nature.

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What are three examples of irony in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

Frank Stockton's short story "The Lady, or The Tiger?" is full of irony. Here are three examples of irony that are characteristic of the narrator's darkly comic tone.

First of all, in the first sentence of the short story, the king is described as "semi-barbaric." This adjective is, in and of itself, ironic because the word "barbaric" is not typically mitigated by the pre-fix "semi." People are barbaric, or people are not barbaric; being a little bit barbaric, or semi-barbaric, is not really possible.

Secondly, the king's belief that exhibitions of violence and cruelty contribute to the cultivation and refinement of his people's minds is ironic. High culture is typically associated with pastimes that involve the intellect; crude and crass displays of power are emotional and visceral in nature, so very little refined intelligence is needed to appreciate them.

Finally, the narrator employs irony when applying the phrase "perfect fairness" to the king's preferred system of justice. This light and comfortable phrase is incongruous because the randomness of the king's system is only fair in the fact that it treats all people as equals; it is not at all fair in the modern concept of fairness that suggests that a punishment should match the crime.

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What are three examples of irony in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

I think that you are probably looking for examples of verbal irony here.  This is the type of irony where the author says one thing, but really means the opposite.  There is quite a bit of this in the story.

Here are a few examples from the story.

First, the narrator says that the king made

the public arena, in which, by exhibitions of manly and beastly valor, the minds of his subjects were refined and cultured

This is ironic because the minds of his subjects weren't really being cultured by this -- it's barbaric.

Second, we are told that

The arena of the king was built, not to give the people an opportunity of hearing the rhapsodies of dying gladiators...

Dying people don't do rhapsodies.  So that's ironic too.

Finally, the narrator says this about the method that the king made up of deciding whether someone was innocent or guilty:

Its perfect fairness is obvious.

This is ironic because the process was ridiculously unfair and arbitrary.

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What are the examples of foreshadowing in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

Interestingly, when Frank R. Stockton's short story "The Lady, or the Tiger?" first appeared in the Century magazine in 1882, it caused quite a sensation with its unfinished plot, and debate were held throughout the country in order to decide the ending. Indeed, there were reasons for people's determinations of either door as the one chosen by the young man who is the lover of the princess.

Contributing to the debate on the ending is Stockton's use of irony throughout the narrative, irony which often complicates the identification of foreshadowing, of what will happen in the plot. Nonetheless, there are some hints which lead readers to form their determination of the ending. Here are some examples of this foreshadowing:

  • The vast amphitheater is "an agent of poetic justice." This statement implies that not impartial justice, but a retribution instead is exacted in the king's arena.
  • The king "allowed no such arrangement to interfere with his great scheme of punishment or reward." This sentence comes after a description of how "justice" is exacted from the subjects; it is simply based upon the barbaric king's arbitrary decision, his "semi-barbaric method of administering justice." 
  • The princess is loved by the king "above all humanity."
  • The king's daughter has "a soul as fervent and imperious as his own."
  • When the king discovers the lover of the princess, a young man who is but a commoner, he has the lover imprisoned immediately. The king knows that his daughter loves this young man, but "the king would not think of allowing any fact of this kind to interfere with the working of the court of judgment."
  • The princess attends the day of judgment at the arena because she has "barbarism in her nature." This mention of barbarism suggests that she is cruel.
  • The princess knows behind which door stands the lady, and she knows who she is. Moreover, she hates this "fair damsel" because she has seen her "throwing glances of admiration upon...her lover, and sometimes she thought these glances were perceived and even returned." Therefore, the princess hates this damsel "with all the intensity of the savage blood transmitted to her...through barbaric ancestors. 
  • When he looks up at the princess, the lover discerns that she knows what lies behind each door. "He had expected her to know it. He understood her nature." 

The challenge of the final acts of the princess and of the lover lie in the irony of his not knowing that the princess hates the beautiful damsel whom, ironically, the princess has witnessed her flirt with him.

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Where is there evidence of foreshadowing and irony in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

An example of foreshadowing in the story could be the fact that the reader knows that the Princess hates the beautiful young lady who waits behind one of the doors.  She is extremely jealous of her, and it is logical to conclude that she will not signal her lover to pick the door where the lady waits to marry her beloved.

Its safe to infer from the facts of the story that the young commoner picked the door with the  ferocious tiger.

I think that the fact that the Princess can't have her lover is evidence enough, along with her jealous hatred of the beautiful young lady, that the poor commoner gets attacked by the tiger when he opens the door that the Princess directs him to choose.

The irony, I think lies in the King's use of the arena as a system of justice.  The fact that the day of the commoner's trial is suggested to be an orderly process that is somehow fair is ironic.  The outcome is being determined by the Princess's hatred and jealousy of the beautiful young lady.  There is no doubt that the young man is killed by the tiger.

Justice is an orderly process where the accused is entitled to a trial to determine guilt or innocence.  In the King's justice, the use of the word justice is ironic, it is not justice at all, but pure entertainment for the King and his subjects.

The only judicious purpose that the arena serves is to discourage the King's subjects from breaking the law.  Public executions are a good deterrent, they discourage crime very efficiently. 

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What is an example of foreshadowing, dramatic irony and verbal irony in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

The title The Lady or the Tiger is a foreshadowing of the events that take place in the story.  We as the reader can guess that at some point in the story someone will have to choose between a lady or a tiger.There are many occasions of irony in this story.  The narrator says that “the minds of the king’s subjects are refined* and cultured*” by witnessing the events in the arena. This statement is ironic because a person being slaughtered is neither refining nor cultural.  We are also told that the princess finds out that the lady chosen to be behind the door just happens to be a woman the princess was already jealous of.  She has to choose whether or not to give her lover to a woman she hates, or to a tiger who will kill him.The concept of justice is dramatic irony in this story because the idea that leaving the judgment of innocence or guilt up to chance is very ironic.

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