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 Lady, Or The Tiger?"

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Context: A "semi-barbaric" king of long ago had the custom of trying accused criminals in a public arena. The trial was simple: the defendant was forced to open one of a pair of doors in the arena wall. Behind one was a hungry tiger, and if chance made the man choose this one, he was killed immediately by the beast and declared guilty; behind the other door was a lady who became the man's wife, if her door was the one chosen, as reward for his innocence. It happens that the king's daughter takes a lover from the peasant class, and to punish the man for his presumption, the king one day places him in the arena. The princess has learned which door conceals the tiger and signals her lover to choose the one to the right. The unanswered question is whether the princess has directed him to the tiger, sparing herself the pain of seeing him married to another, or directed him to the lady, being unable to face the spectacle of seeing him torn to pieces.

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

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