Do you remember a time when you had to make a choice and each option was equally unpleasant? Perhaps you lied, and something terrible happened, or you were faced with the task of divulging the truth and being punished for lying. This mess is called a dilemma: a situation that challenges an agreeable solution. In literature, dilemmas form the central conflict many protagonists encounter. Many people face all kinds of dilemmas in life, and the choice they make can have long-lasting impacts. Sometimes these dilemmas have even caused changes in society and history! Common dilemmas include: classic, ethical, and moral.
"The Lady or the Tiger" by Frank Stockton is a unique story to read with students. With an ambiguous ending, students get a chance to use their detective skills to decide the man's fate. Did the princess send her lover to his death, or did she swallow her jealousy and send him to another woman? Students also get to practice their creative writing skills by finishing the resolution; this often produces considerable insight to the type of students I have in my class. Will they kill the handsome young man? Spare him? Create a paradoxical surprise ending? The choice is up to the reader!
Dilemma in Lady or the Tiger | Teaching Dilemma in Literature
My love, the princess, knows which door holds each fate. Which door will she tell me to pick?
If he opened the one, there came out of it a hungry tiger, the fiercest and most cruel that could be procured, which immediately sprang upon him and tore him to pieces as a punishment for his guilt.
OPTION 1 - THE TIGER
OPTION 2 - THE LADY
If the accused person opened the other door, there came forth from it a lady, the most suitable to his years and station that his majesty could select among his fair subjects, and to this lady he was immediately married, as a reward of his innocence.