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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The story ends with the last of the narrator's mother's leaps, when she saved her daughter from a burning house in her childhood. It is important to realise that the ending is actually one of many flashbacks contained within the story, and occurs in the past. The present is when the daugher, now an adult, stays with her elderly mother, supposedly to look after her, and tells the reader the story of her mother's life as a former circus performer and trapeze artist. What happens when the narrator is trapped in their burning house is that her mother propels herself up onto the building and enters the room where the narrator is trapped, and the two jump down into the firemen's safety blanket. Note how the last few lines of the story allow the present reality of the fire to merge with the past of her mother's life in the circus:

The wind roared and heat its hot breath at our back, the flames whistled. I slowly wondered what would happen if we missed the circle or bounced out of it. Then I wrapped my hands around my mother's hands. I felt the brush of her lips and heard the beat of her heart in my ears, loud as thunder, long as the roll of drums.

The reference to "long as the roll of drums" suggests the drum roll that occurs before tricks or stunts are performed in the circus, and serves to link the character of the mother in the present to her past life in the circus.

Read the study guide:
The Leap

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