In "The Leap" by Louise Erdrich, what does the theme "As you fall, there is time to think" mean and how is it important to the story?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The phrase, "As you fall, you have time to think" means that even in critical situations there are decisions that an individual can make.

The daughter who narrates "The Leap" tells her mother's story and describes how her mother was able to think as she fell. She began to fall as lightning struck the main pole of the circus tent under which the Flying Avalons performed. Anna, who was seven months pregnant, was in midair, ready to catch her husband's hands when this lightning struck the main pole, buckling the tent. This action caused Harry Avalon to be hurled through the air. In that "awful doomed second," Anna chose not to fall to her death with her husband by clutching his ankle as he went down. Instead, she twisted herself to change direction, and she grabbed the braided metal of a heavy wire, "still hot from the lightning strike." The rescuers lowered Anna with care to the center ring since she had burned her hands terribly; her arm was also broken as she was extricated from the wires. Consequently, Anna was taken to the nearby hospital. Unfortunately, her baby was later stillborn. But, something rich and beautiful came to Anna Avalon during her stay in the hospital because she fell in love with her physician. Because he was a man who never fulfilled his dream of traveling and she had never learned to read, Anna taught him about cities of the world while he taught her to read.

In the mother's second great leap into the air, she rescued her little girl from their burning house, and she and her daughter flew through the air as the house burned. They fell together toward the firemen's net, and the narrator wondered if they might miss the circle. "Then I wrapped my hands around my mother's hands" the narrator states. She did this because she realized the truth of her mother's words. In the time that she had to think as she fell, the girl knew there was no reason to not trust her mother's accuracy in landing on the net.

hstaley eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The narrator's mother made three leaps in the short story, "The Leap."  The first leap was a literal one which dealt with the mother leaping to safety in the fire from the tent.  The second was more figurative or symbolic because she made a leap of faith in loving and trusting her second husband.  The third was a leap into her burning house to save her daughter from the fire.  With all of these "leaps," there was the opportunity to decide which actions to take.  In the first, she made the conscious decision to grab hold of the electrified wire to save herself.  In the second, she decided to take the risk of loving again.  In the third, she had to decide the best way to access and save her daughter.  All of these leaps involved falling, or some sort of failure, but she still had time, even if it was seconds, to determine the course her life would take.