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?  

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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...

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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. 

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What are three ways the narrator of "The Leap" owes her existence to her mother? What literary techniques are used to reveal this?

The first time the narrator is saved by her mother is during the trapeze act. Anna is blindfolded as part of the act. When the storm strikes, she chooses to save herself rather than go down with her husband. The blindfold is either ironic or an example of foreshadowing because, later in life, Anna is sightless because of cataracts. In the process of falling, she removes her blindfold and catches hold of a searing hot wire. When Anna's hands heal, the lines are gone, leaving "only the blank scar tissue of a quieter future." Here again, we have a slight foreshadowing of fire and an inclination about Anna's future because she trades trapeze "flying" for a safer family life.

Anna learns to read from her second husband, the narrator's father. So, the first tragic (and actual) leap led to the next symbolic leap in Anna's life: marrying again and learning to read.

The third and final leap is when Anna rescues her daughter (narrator) from their burning house. Two of these leaps are actual leaps. The second is the symbolic leap Anna makes in changing her life. The metaphor of the leap can be attributed to any gesture a mother makes to ensure her daughter's safety. Erdrich could have added other "leaps" or sacrifices that Anna may have made for her daughter. This is the theme of the leap: each represents a mother's sacrifice. And also note that the narrator moves back in with her mother to take care of her and read to her. This is the narrator's way of returning the favor or of making a reciprocal leap for her mother.

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What are three ways the narrator of "The Leap" owes her existence to her mother? What literary techniques are used to reveal this?

All of the three are presented through the literary technique of flashback, in which the narrator looks backwards in time and identifies the way that her mother Anna engaged in acts that directly led to her daughter's existence. The are told in a stream-of-consciousness style in the first person. 

The first leap is a physical one. As the mother was performing on a trapeze, blindfolded, lightning struck the main pole of the circus tent, causing the tent and trapeze to collapse. Anna grabbed a wire and managed to save herself from falling and dying with her husband.

The second leap was her marriage to a doctor, the narrator's father. The narrator's mother leapt metaphorically away from her familiar environment of the circus. In making this leap, she also learned to read, a great intellectual leap as she had previously been illiterate, and one that ignited in her a lifelong love of reading.

The third leap is the one Anna took from a tree to save her daughter, who was trapped in an upstairs bedroom, from a house fire. 

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