How does the author of "The Leap" manipulate time?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Doris Lessing, the author of "The Leap" manipulates time through the use of flashbacks.

The narrator/daughter begins the narrative in the present as she describes her mother, now blinded by cataracts, navigating through the rooms without so much as disturbing one object. Certainly, "she has never lost her balance." This mention of balance then leads to a flashback of why the mother yet possesses the "catlike precision" in her movements. 
This thought of her mother's acrobatic precision leads to the first flashback.

  • This one is a personal one for the narrator. She recalls the fire in her house that encroached upon her bedroom where she was trapped until her mother saved her. Then, she recalls that she really owes her life to her mother three times.
  • The next flashback that occurs is the time that her mother saved her own life. She was Anna of the Flying Avalons, who had a trapeze act with her husband Harry in which they would fly blindly through the air and kiss and catch each other in perfect timing. Crowds would roar with delight when they threw off their plumed helmets which had made them seem like birds mating in the air. 
    On one occasion that they performed, however, a tremendous wind storm blew in abruptly, and it was while they were in midair that lightning struck the main pole and raced down the guy wires, causing the circus tent to topple forward. Harry Avalon tumbled downward to his death, but when the blindfolded Anna realized that his hands were not there to catch her, she twisted her body quickly and changed direction. She managed to catch a guide wire, but it was still terribly hot from the lightning. Rescuers lowered her carefully to the sawdust ring and rushed her to the hospital with a broken arm and burned hands.
  • The next flashback is a description of how Anna fell in love with her doctor while she was in the hospital. She taught him about all the places around the world that she and Harry had visited; he taught her to read and write. Anna conceived the daughter after they were married.
  • The third flashback is a description of how Anna saved her daughter from the house fire when no one else could do so because all ways to reach the little girl trapped in her bedroom were blocked: The fire made its way up the only stairway and an outside ladder was broken. So, Anna stripped off her dress and climbed the broken ladder to a tree branch; from there she leaped onto another fragile branch over the roof. It broke with her weight, but she managed to reach the roof and, with her superior balance and dexterity hung upside down; beckoning her daughter to open the window, she then climbed into the girl's bedroom. As she held her daughter in her arms, they leaped into the waiting fireman's net.

 

 

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The Leap

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