What Is the Theme of "Lady or the Tiger" by Frank Stockton?

The short story "Lady or the Tiger?" by Frank Stockton centers on themes of justice, barbarism and jealousy as well as the polar opposites of these themes. It is also a story about risk, civilization and generosity.

This story is about justice in that the king has a system of justice for those who perpetrate defiant acts. However, chance comes into play within this system, in that anything can happen within the arena that the guilty and innocent are sent to. Barbarism and civility take place through the very juxtaposition of the lady and the tiger as representations of what is punishment and barbaric, and what is good and civilized. Finally, the princess's choice between a selfish act and an act of generosity that only hurts her represents the choice we all face between our civilized and more barbaric selves.