‘The Lady, Or The Tiger?’ by Frank Stockton


The Lady, Or The Tiger? by Frank Stockton, 1882

The magic trick:

Ending the story with a section that directly addresses the reader and closes with a question

This story is undeniably silly. The title alone should tell you that. It also raises an undeniably classic question of human nature. Really, it’s kind of like the world’s first Choose Your Own Adventure. Only problem is Stockton never goes back to write the different scenarios based on your choice. The story ends in a question. Therein lies the magic. The final section of this story certainly is unique. The telling of the action ceases and the author addresses the reader directly, explaining the story’s meaning and themes. Finally, the reader is given the opportunity to decide for themselves what happened in the story. The end. No finality. No definites. Only debate. And that’s quite a trick on Stockton’s part.

In the version in my head, the princess indicates the tiger with her right hand. However, she meant her right and the young man goes to his right, and therefore picks the lady by mistake.. and lives happily ever after.)

The selection:

Now, the point of the story is this: Did the tiger come out of that door, or did the lady ?

The more we reflect upon this question, the harder it is to answer. It involves a study of the human heart which leads us through devious mazes of passion, out of which it is difficult to find our way. Think of it, fair reader, not as if the decision of the question depended upon yourself, but upon that hot-blooded, semi-barbaric princess, her soul at a white heat beneath the combined fires of despair and jealousy. She had lost him, but who should have him?


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