Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

"The Lady, or the Tiger?" Which Do You Choose?

Internal & External Conflict

Susan McHale | Published: June 2nd, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 9th
  • Subject Subject English/Language Arts
  • Course Course A.P. Literature and Composition
  • Time Frame Time Frame 3 class period(s)
  • Duration More 150 minutes


This lesson is based on the short story "The Lady, or the Tiger?" by Frank R. Stockton. Students will summarize the story and analyze each character's personality and internal conflict. Students will also identify the external conflict through the plot and setting. The author does not provide an ending for the reader, so students must choose an ending for the story using textual evidence to support their reasoning.

Essential Question(s)

What is the author's purpose in writing this story? Why does the author ask the reader to determine the ending?



Students participate in a Magnetic Statements activity that supports the themes of the short story “The Lady, or the Tiger?”.


Students work in pairs to read and annotate the short story "The Lady, or the Tiger?" and then develop a brief summary.


Students use textual evidence to identify external conflicts, motivations, and internal conflicts for each main character in the story.


Students use Claim, Evidence, Reasoning (CER) analysis to determine an ending to the story.


Students re-evaluate the themes of the story in light of their previous analysis and discuss why the author purposely did not provide a conclusion to the story.


  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • Magnetic Statements (attached, one set)

  • "The Lady, or the Tiger?" short story (versions with and without annotated vocabulary are attached, one per student)

  • Character Analysis handout (attached, one per student)

  • CER handout (attached, one per student)


45 Minute(s)

Begin the lesson by showing slides 2-4 of the attached Lesson Slides, which introduce the title of the lesson, the essential questions, and the learning objectives. Emphasize that the essential questions will be addressed throughout the lesson.

Display slide 5, introduce the Magnetic Statements strategy to students, and ask them to use this strategy to stand beside one of the statements posted around the room that “attracts” or “repels” them. Depending on the length of the class discussion, this activity should take approximately 15 minutes.

Point out the statements posted around the room. Slowly read each statement aloud and clarify any statements that might be confusing to students.

  • Humans are basically good.  

  • Humans have a capacity for great evil and violence.  

  • Jealousy can cause people to act cruelly.

  • True love is unselfish.

  • In extreme situations, it is impossible to make good decisions.

  • Family bonds are stronger than any other relationship.

Ask students to identify what these statements have in common.

Ask students to choose a statement that they either believe to be true and "attracts" them or one which they do not believe to be true and "repels" them.

Allow a few minutes for students to move to their chosen statement. After they have gathered around the various statements, give students time to discuss their opinions with others who chose the same statement. Instruct them to discuss their reasoning as to why they chose that statement and why they were attracted to or repelled by it.

Have each group choose a spokesperson to summarize and share their discussions with the class. After each group shares, ask students to share a personal experience or an example they have observed that would make any one of these statements true for them.

Conclude the discussion by emphasizing to students that these statements are all themes in the story they are about to read. 


Display slide 6 to preview the short story "The Lady, or the Tiger?" Introduce students to author Frank R. Stockton, and share some of the challenges that Stockton faced as a writer.

Pass out a copy of “The Lady, or the Tiger?” (with or without annotated vocabulary) to each student (or use the text in your textbook if available). Share with students that the story had been written for publication in a magazine in 1882. Stockton uses words not commonly used today. To this end, advise students that some of the vocabulary in the story is archaic.

Read the story aloud and ask students to read along silently. Instruct students to underline any unfamiliar or confusing words or phrases.

After you've completed the first reading, ask students to share words or phrases that they have underlined. Discuss them as a class. Refer to the attached “The Lady, or the Tiger?” with Annotated Vocabulary to aid with this discussion.

Display slide 7. Pair students as reading partners. Using a variation of the CUS and Discuss strategy, ask pairs to read the story again and circle the main ideas. When they finish reading, pairs should work together to write a summary of the story in 20 words or fewer.

Call on pairs to share out their summaries in a class discussion. Dispel any misconceptions about the story if student summaries include inaccuracies.

After the discussion, display slide 8. Ask students about the setting of the story using guiding questions, such as:

  • What do the words "amphitheater," "arena," "gladiators," "tribunal," and "galleries" call to mind?

  • Who are the king's "Latin neighbors”?

  • What does this tell you about the possible time period of the story?


45 Minute(s)

Direct students to look closely at the story’s main characters: the king, the princess, and the courtier (the princess' lover). Pass out a copy of the attached Character Analysis handout to each student.

Display slide 9. Before students begin their analyses, explain what constitutes a character trait: a word that describes a character, often inferred from literal details in a text. Pairs should work together to complete the handout. Allow 25 to 35 minutes for this activity.

After pairs have completed their analyses, combine the pairs to make groups of four. Ask group members to discuss their analyses and add any new information to their handouts.

Discuss each character's personality and the textual evidence that supports each personality trait. For each character, have groups share personality traits and text phrases or words that support their analyses.

As groups share out, write one or two phrases for each character and the supporting textual evidence on slides 10-12.

Once you and the class have developed individual character analyses, read aloud the definition of external conflict from slide 13. Pose the question to the class: What is the external conflict of this story? 

Read aloud the definition of internal conflict on slide 14. Ask students to think about the difference between external conflict and internal conflict. Pose the following questions to the class: What is the internal conflict? Who has the greatest internal conflict in the story?

Explain that the author uses both internal and external conflict as literary devices to build rising tension in the story. Explore student perceptions of the tension that the story poses. Students should realize that the princess is jealous of her rival while also being deeply in love with the courtier (internal conflict) and that the courtier cannot escape the consequences of being in the arena (external conflict).


45 Minute(s)

Pass out a copy of the attached CER handout to each student. Introduce the Claim, Evidence, Reasoning (CER) strategy to students. Display slide 15. Note to students the author’s decision to purposely leave the ending of the story up to the reader, and invite students to use the CER strategy along with the handout to aid them in choosing an ending for the story. To do so, have students decide which door the princess pointed to for the courtier. Instruct them to write their choice of door in the claim box. After they have identified their choice of door, have them add textual evidence in the evidence box. Once they have filled the evidence box, guide them in inferring the story’s ending in the reasoning box. Allow students to use their Character Analysis handout and previous class discussions as references for this activity. Allow 20 to 30 minutes for students to complete the assignment.

Display slide 16. Place two chairs in the middle of the room facing each other. Divide the room in half. Based on their CER analyses, designate one side of the room for students who believe the courtier choose the “door that opened to a tiger.” Designate the opposite side of the room for students who believe the courtier chose the “door that opened to the maiden.” (This activity is a variation of the Philosophical Chairs strategy.)

Select one student from each side to sit in the chairs in the middle of the room. Ask both students to discuss why they chose their position. Allow students to use their CER handouts as talking points.

Invite students who have a rebuttal for any ideas that have been discussed to sit in the chairs and share their thoughts. Continue this debate until a representative group from each side has expressed their viewpoints.

Have students return to their seats. Encourage students to discuss whether their minds were changed by a statement or argument that they found compelling.


45 Minute(s)

After the Philosophical Chairs debate, ask students to return to their seats. Display slide 17, and revisit the lesson's overarching essential question: “What is the author's purpose for writing the story?” Explain further by asking, “What is the author's purpose in leaving the ending up to the reader?

Display slide 18, and return to the Magnetic Statements from the Engage activity. Ask students to vote for one of the statements that they believe is the prevailing theme of the story.

Mention to students that their choice might be affected by the door they chose as well. After a vote, ask for volunteers to elaborate on their choice. The voting and subsequent discussion should take approximately 10 minutes.  

Additional student products in this lesson that are available for assessment include the Character Analysis handout and the CER handout.