“The Lady or the Tiger” by Frank R. Stockton
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Frank R. Stockton is an American novelist born in Philadelphia in 1834. Frank lived a mischievous boyhood but once he grow up he began to study engraving on wood well on the side he started writing as it was his true passion. When the story “The Lady Or The Tiger?” was written it had been translated into many different languages through the success Stockton had with it, since he composed such an exquisite piece of literature. Stockton made this so with his ability to engage the readers, his use of language to create suspenseful imagery and the messages within to help you learn something about the world around you. Stockton engages the reader by writing “The Lady Or The Tiger?” in full detail but with the intelligence and control not to sway or hint more to one side over the other as to what could happen. Getting near the end of the story the point of view changes to the princess, where it shows the battle within her head on what to do with her lover after she had accomplished in finding out the secret of what was behind each of the doors, being the first one to ever do so.
As she struggles to come to a decision she has thoughts of “how often in her walking hours and in her dreams, had she started in wild horror, and covered her face with her hands as she thought of her lover, opening the door on the other side of which waited the cruel fangs of the tiger” (Stockton, pg.4). From that thought it leads to another that expresses an entirely different emotion as she thinks of “how often in her grievous reveries had she gnashed her teeth, and torn her hair, when she saw his start of rapturous delight as he opened the door of the lady” (Stockton, pg.5). Those together are no lead to what door may be choosing for her lover as both thoughts oppose each other. If the princess had only proclaimed her thoughts to either her fear of his death, or to end all the jealousy within her, then it would be a clear hint as to what she may choose in the end, but still Stockton stays in the middle, neither swaying to one side or the other.
As the story comes to a close, “her decision had been indicated in an instant, but it had been made after days and nights anguished deliberation, she had known she would be asked, and, without the slightest hesitation, she had moved her hand to the right” (Stockton, pg.5), and with her choice being made and the story ending, not only does Stockton still not reveal the fate behind the right door, but he does his biggest move to engage the readers yet by letting us decide what is behind the door, the Lady or the Tiger? With his excessive use of descriptive words to create a clear imagine in your mind, it helps Stockton’s ability to bring in suspense for the reader. When suspense is added into a story it “…is not just a matter of keeping the reader guessing: suspense calls for all the nail-biting emotional responses of anxiety, excitement and fear, as readers live through the main character’s viewpoint” (“Creating Suspense In The Young Adult Mystery”).
In the beginning Stockton puts a real focus on the setting and an example of that would be “…the king, surrounded by his court, sat high up on his throne of royal state on one side of the arena, he gave a signal, a door beneath him opened, and the accused subject stepped out into the amphitheatre. Directly opposite him, on the other side of the enclosed space, where two doors, exactly alike and side by side” (Stockton, pg.1). The arena plays a crucial role in the story, since it contains those two doors that hold the accused offender’s fate. Stockton had made these the last factors that decide one’s life or death, and contain no clues as to which door could contain the bride to be, or the fiercest tiger and so he gives that suspense through the uncertainty. “Through those thick doors, heavily curtained with skins on the inside, it was impossible that any noise or suggestion should come from within to the person who should approach to raise the latch of one of them” (Stockton, pg.3). With this added knowledge about the doors it can only lead to greater suspense because now that Stockton has the imagery down in your understandings it gives him the opportunity to build the suspense more, an example is the point in the story when the young lover’s trail had come and “the only hope of the youth in which there was any element of uncertainty was based upon the success of the princess…” (Stockton, pg.4).
With his last look up to the princess and the direction she advised the young lover “…turned, and with a firm and rapid step walked across the empty space. Every heart stopped beating, every breath was held, every eye fixed immovably upon that man without the slightest hesitation, he went to the door on the right, and opened it” (Stockton, pg.4). With that last bit of strong emotion and final technique of repeated imagery, Stockton builds the story’s intensity to the top. Then right when you expect it to hit climax, the moment is held as the ending is left at a cliff-hanger giving no relief from that stressful suspense. In this particular story Stockton allows you the opportunity to see that there are such cruel and barbaric people out in this world, even ones in such power. The figure that represents this is the king. He is the reason that such an arena was built, where everyone pays a price whether they are innocent or guilty. “When a subject was accused of a crime of sufficient importance to interest the king, public notice was giving that on an appointed day the fate of the accused person would be decided in the king’s arena…” (Stockton, pg.1). Stockton brings attention to the fact that there are people put there just like the king that when they agree with something that they want, they get it with no other say in it other than their own.
The king wanted this barbaric arena and so he got it, “there was no escape from the judgement of the king’s arena” (Stockton, pg.2). Stockton also shows that people can be so selfish and unable to share, they possess themselves to do whatever it takes not to share. In the story it is represented when the king discovers the existence of a love affair that involves his most beloved daughter who had “…a soul as fervent and imperious as his own” (Stockton, pg.2). The youth that dared to love his princess was admittedly cast into prison by the king, just because he had no intentions of sharing his daughter and the attention that she gave him. He loved her above all humanity and was too selfish to let her love someone else other than himself. Even with this young man being one with the fineness of blood and only desiring to share the love of his daughter with him made no difference, he had control and power and with having a semi-barbaric daughter it allowed him to do anything barbaric because there was no one stopping him. Due to this character being present within the story it helped Stockton add in many aspects to his story that you could learn from making it a more in depth personal reading.
Those are just a few examples of how Stockton engages the readers, used his language purposefully, well teaching a little bit of the world that surrounds you. With his ability to combine it all into his writing Stockton succeed in creating a great piece known as “The Lady Or The Tiger”. He is among many brilliant short story writers such as Lord Dunsany and Edgar Allen Poe that dedicated their time to write out those percolating ideas inside their minds and share them for the enjoyment of the audience.
“Frank R. Stockton.” Old Nutley. N.p., 1 02 2013. Web. 22 Feb 2013. <http://www.oldnutley.org/stockton.html>. Web
Nixon, J.L “Creating Suspense In The Young Adult Mystery.”Writer 100.10 (1987): 19. Canadian Reference Centre. Web. 14 Feb. 2013. Web
“View the Book.” The Lady Or The Tiger? By Frank R. Stockton : Frank Richard Stockton, 1834-1902 : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive. N.p, n.d. Wed. 5 Feb. 2013 Print