What Is a Summary of “The Lady or the Tiger”?

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“The Lady or the Tiger?” is a short story by Frank Stockton that tells of an unusual punishment imposed by a semi-barbaric king in which the accused must choose between two doors. Behind one door is a maiden and behind the other is a tiger. The protagonist is the lover of the princess. Knowing what lies behind the doors, she signals to him which door to open.

The beginning of the story gives details of the king’s punishment. The man stands in the arena alone. If he chooses the door with the woman, he is proclaimed innocent and free, but must immediately marry the woman. If he chooses the door with the half-starved tiger, he is immediately devoured. Her lover knows that the princess has discovered the contents of the doors, and he looks to her for direction. Without hesitation, she indicates which door he should open. If she indicates the door with the maiden, she must watch the man she loves marry a woman she despises. If she leads the man to the tiger, she must watch him be torn to pieces. In the end, the author does not solve the puzzle and leaves it up to the reader.

“The Lady or the Tiger” was first published in The Century magazine in 1882. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, author Frank Stockton is best known for this short story.