In the ruckus of life, love and jealousy can become intertwined and destroy the other. Jealousy can strangle all life out of the love that has been formed over time. In Frank R. Stockton’s short story titled “The Lady or the Tiger? ”, this exact situation occurs. A youth falls in love with a king’s daughter, which is forbidden by society, so in return, the youth is thrown into jail by the king and put on trial for his convicted crime of treason against the kingdom.
In the story, it is revealed that often times jealousy causes one to question their loyalty to a person due to their immediate emotions overriding reason and the relationship previously built. In the story, the theme of jealousy is introduced through the external conflict expressed within the text. This story takes place in the Middle Ages, during which a physical trial would determine the fate of the convicted.
The trials of the guilty end in violence because it was believed that God only saved the innocent, so when the king inadvertently “… pened the one [door], there came out of it a hungry tiger, the fiercest and most cruel that could be procured, which immediately sprang upon [the convicted], and tore him to pieces as a punishment for his guilt” of the crime committed (Stockton 299). The information involving the cruelty of the affair provided in the excerpt gives the reader insight to the princess’s hesitance towards feeding the youth to the lion and the king’s motives for sending the youth to a trial for dating his daughter. According to the king, the youth should receive a great punishment for his crime of treason against the kingdom.
Reflecting on the motives of these actions, leaves the reader to question the loyalty of the daughter to the criminal system since she willingly seeks out the secret to what is hidden beyond the doors. Under the pressure of the situation, the princess begins to question her true feelings towards the youth and is unfortunately torn between provoking his death or dreading to see him with another woman; an old enemy of hers. The princess’s harsh feelings towards the young damsel go far back and have been based on the fear of her lover devoting himself to someone else, which was suspected when the young lady was seen “… hrowing glances of admiration upon the person of [the princess’s] lover, and sometimes [the princess] thought these glances were perceived and even returned” by the youth (302).
The emotions experienced in this moment create the base of the princess’s sensitivity in the arena. Further on in the story, the theme of love being blinded by jealousy is revealed through conflict conveyed against society by suggesting the scarcity of a boy loving the daughter of an overprotective king. A relationship with the princess is seen as a forbidden affair due to the wrath of her father so “… ever before had a subject dared to love the daughter of a king” prior to the youth himself (Stockton 301).
The youth’s actions of bravery while fully understanding the severity of the consequences shows his persistence and determination expressed when following his heart and dreams. This kind of determination should be prized by the princess, but instead she is questioning her motives when deciding his fate. Her immediate emotions of jealousy at imagining him with the beautiful lady instead of herself destroys the past she has created with the youth and could ultimately destroy even the possibility of their future.
Jealousy tempts the princess to think about making the selfish decision of ending the youth’s life all too soon, even though the youth is a man that only expresses selfless actions towards the princess. Finally in the story, jealousy blinds love through conflict composed between a character and their emotions. The princess in “The Lady or the Tiger” struggles when determining the youth’s fate either consisting of death or marriage to another beautiful lady as she contemplates “Which [door to open. The answer is] as plain to her as if [the youth] shouted it from where he stood. There was not an instant to be lost.
The question [of which door to open] was asked in a flash; it must be answered in another” (Stockton 302). The princess is forced to decide the youth’s fate in a split second. The short amount of time that is taken for her to make her decision suggests that her emotions may have overruled reason and could lead to her regretting her decision later in life. In a single second, lives could be drastically changed. Up until the last moment, the youth, that the princess had loved, believes that she will spare him; he has a blind faith in the princess and trusts in her choices. The king’s daughter’s heart is torn during this point of decision.
She must decide whether she would prefer to see the youth dead or with the lady whom she despises. The end of this short story is ambiguous and is left up to the reader. Given the information provided in the text, it is apparent that the princess experiences strong emotions of jealousy when imagining the youth she loves with another lady, which leads to her obedience and honor to the criminal system and her father being broken. The princess’s true morals are tested in this situation; if she truly loves the youth, she will let him live. Given the circumstances of jealousy powering against love, which would you choose? The lady or the tiger?