Type: Literary Analysis
Pages: 3 | Words: 612
Reading Time: 3 Minutes

Frank R. Stockton’s “The Lady or the Tiger?” is a fable or a fairy-tale, the action of which takes place in a far away kingdom in the very olden time. Its main ingredient is a dilemma or unsolvable situation. Such problems, though not so deadly or dramatic, confront any of us every day.

The conflict in the story is rather ambiguous. There is one conflict between the king and his daughter. Another one is between the young man, who is in love with the princess, and the king. There is also a conflict of an individual and the society with the established rules. The most intriguing conflict of the story is internal. The young woman is torn in pieces; she has to decide whether her lover will get devoured by a wild animal or she will have to watch him infolded in the arms of another woman.

The theme of the story can be defined as the nature of human love, free will and making unbiased right decisions. The writer also brings up the issue of despair, jealousy, choice and consequences.  A common thread running through this short story is the concept of exercising the free will and making difficult choices. The notions of barbarity and civilization are disclosed as well. Throughout the history of literature, writers have discussed various systems of justice. Frank R. Stockton introduces another unique one. Moreover, Stockton discusses the issues related to passion, romantic relations, self-interest and reason. He also offers insight into the human willingness to benefit others, even being one’s own enemy.

Three main characters are the king, his daughter and a young man, who loves the princess. The king is semi-barbaric, large, exuberant and vindictive. His image is rather stereotyped, as he is of a calm nature, but his power is totalitarian. The young man, whose love affair results in his trial, is strong, handsome and courageous. The beautiful young princess is the most complex character. She is in love; that is why she is jealous of the man she loves. Her doubts and offended feelings do not let us be absolutely sure of her final choice.

On the one hand, the ending of the story is an open question, which is unsatisfactory. The narration ends very abruptly. It is a cliffhanger that makes the story appealing and worth reading. On the other hand, the ending thoroughly depends on the outlook of the reader, thus it says as much about the fate of the main characters, as it does about the reader. It is up to everybody to decide whether the princess saved her lover, pointing to the door, where a bride was waiting, or she preferred to see the man she loved dead rather than married. The reader is put in a quandary. The writer is no longer in charge of assessing the human nature; he leaves that to his readers.

The word barbaric was used several times to describe the character of the princess, however, I believe that the princess would have never forgiven herself if her lover had died, so she reconsidered at the supreme moment and let him live happily. Her despair and jealousy did not turn her into a killer.

To sum up, Stockton helps his readers understand how they would behave if they were to choose whether to benefit themselves or do a sacrificial contribution. The most essential thing in the story is that the ending depends on the reader’s attitude. Every reader chooses that door which they would choose if they were in the princess’s shoes. A genius short piece of writing is like a mirror in front of the readers. Their choice reflects whether they are optimistic or pessimistic, kind or revengeful. 

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