The Leap Questions and Answers
by Louise Erdrich

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Mother's Courage in "The Leap." In "The Leap," what are the many ways in which the narrator’s mother displays courage? What do her actions imply about her character?

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Anna, the mother in "The Leap," is characterized by her courage. As a young woman, she was a circus performer, already an activity that requires strength of character to take part in. Her act involved performing high above the crowd, leaping from beams and trusting her husband to catch her—something that took phenomenal courage. The fact that this activity could have ended in Anna's death is made explicit when her husband is killed after lightning strikes the tent.

Anna does not lose her courage when she loses her husband and her baby, however. Instead, she is able to continue, and have another baby, the narrator. When their house catches fire, Anna is courageous enough to endanger her own life by leaping to the window of the burning house to save her daughter. The narrator feels embarrassed for her mother that she is wearing only her underwear to do this, but Anna has no thought of this—she is thinking only of her daughter.

Finally, as an older lady, Anna remains courageous. Now blind, she uses the skills she learned as a young woman to help her navigate the world unaided, even though it must be a frightening place without sight.

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The mother in "The Leap" shows courage in almost countless ways. One simple way is that she makes her way around her house by herself, without complaining, even though she is old and blind. The more dramatic ways, of course, are the various leaps that she takes. When she performed as a trapeze artist, that took courage. When she kept her head when the storm struck the circus tent, that took even more. If she'd panicked, she would have killed her husband. When she leapt to the burning house to rescue her daughter, that took courage—but so did stripping down to her underwear in public to do so.

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