In "The Leap" by Louise Erdrich,the narrator speaks of the three ways that she owes her existence to her mother. Identify the three ways and a literary techniques used to build them. How does each role increase the story's tension?  

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The narrator tells the reader that she owes her existence to her mother three times.  The first time was during a circus act in which her mother, Anna of the Flying Avalons, lost her husband in a tragic trapeze accident.  While on the trapeze, blindfolded, their circus tent was struck by lightning.  Anna’s husband fell to his death.  She could have

“….grasped his ankle, the toe-end of his tights, and gone down clutching him.” (pg 2)

In which case, she would have died also.  Instead she grabbed a heavy wire and was lowered to the ground.  She was seven months pregnant at the time.  The narrator, for we never do know her name, says she thought she must have hemorrhaged because they kept her in bed for a month and half before the baby was born dead.

The second time is when she met her husband in the hospital.  We are all products of our mother and father.  If that mother or father should change, a different person would be created.  So, by the fact that her mother married her father and bore her, she owes her existence to her.

The third time was when the fire occurred in their home.  The narrator was trapped in her upstairs room.  There was no way that the firefighters could get to her.  Her mother, using her trapeze skills, swung herself up to the window, grabbed her daughter, and jumped to the trampoline below held by the firefighters. 

Foreshadowing is used in this piece.  The reader knows that the girl is going to survive the fire because in the third paragraph, she says,

                “I owe her my existence three times.” (pg 1)

There is symbolism in the lamb figurine on top of her sister’s grave.  The lamb represents a young one who had died.

As each event unfolds in the story, they become more personal to the narrator, increasing the tension.  The death of her mother’s first husband is separate from her life.  Her parents’ meeting was the cause of her life, and the fire was a survival story of her life.  Each one involved the narrator more and more. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team