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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What are the resolution and falling action in "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

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The falling action of the story is actually the point at which the princess waves her hand to the right and the story ends. There is no resolution, the ending is ambiguous, meaning you choose what you think happened at the end.

Something interesting about this ambiguous ending is that...

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Stockton never knew that it would draw the attention that it did. He had angry readers demanding that he write an ending to the story. When he finally came forward with an answer to everyone's burning question, "the lady or the tiger?" his answer was that whichever door the reader believed the princess pointed to could be revealing about the reader's character. That's it- he never wrote an ending. It makes the story really great for thought because you really sit back and think about what you yourself might do and why and what that says about your own character.

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This famous and provocative short story takes the reader to the point where the climaxshould occur, the point when the reader learns which door the young man chooses and what his fate is, but the author does not provide a climax. Instead, he leaves us questioning which came out of the door, the lady or the tiger. Without a climax, the story therefore has no falling action or resolution. 

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What is the rising action of "The Lady, or the Tiger?"

When figuring out the rising action of a story, think of a plot diagram that is shaped somewhat like a triangle. The top of the triangle is the climax of the story, so right before the story reaches that final revelatory point, the rising action takes place. The big question to be decided at the climactic point of the story is whether the princess will inform her lover which door to choose to save his life. Therefore, the climax would be the point that the young man opens the door and the answer is revealed. Part of the rising action is when the man is walking into the arena and looks up to the princess for help. However, the author discusses the dilemma facing the princess by describing how she has wrestled with the decision. Right before the man is to choose a door, there are two paragraphs explaining her internal deliberations--should she kill him or allow him to marry another? The rising action right before the revealing climax is the princess struggling with her decision.

"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? And yet, that awful tiger, those shrieks, that blood! Her decision had been indicated in an instant, but it had been made after days and nights of anguished deliberation."

As shown above, the "anguished deliberation" is the rising action displayed before the climax of the story.

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