In the story "The Leap," the narrator speaks of the three ways that she owes her existence to her mother. Identify the three ways and the literary techniques used to reveal them. How does each affect the story's tension?
Louise Erdrich uses a number of literary devices in “The Leap” as the narrator of the story details the three ways she owes her existence to her mother. In the first instance the speaker says, “I owe her my existence three times.” This is a use of foreshadowing which makes the reader want to know what those three ways are, thus increasing the reader’s tension.
The first time the mother saves her daughter's life is when she saves herself. The narrator tells the story of how her mother did this during a circus high wire act. While she and her first husband are performing a blindfolded act, a freak thunderstorm cracks the main pole of the circus tent. The mother, Anna of the Flying Avalons, is able to save herself by removing her blindfold and grabbing on to a guy-wire as she falls. Anna loses her husband in the accident, and during her hospital stay, she loses her unborn child. She is melancholy during this time. Years later, Anna tells her daughter, “I'd be amazed at how many things a person can do within the act of falling.” This sentence foreshadows the third time that she saves her daughter’s existence.
It is during this hospital stay that Anna meets and spends time with the orthopedic doctor who ultimately becomes the narrator’s father. The narrator says that she owes her existence to both of them. The tension in the story decreases as Anna and her husband move into a large farmhouse and establish their life.
The third time that Anna saves her daughter is during a fire in the farmhouse. The author uses flashback, which creates high tension, as the daughter tells of the night that she is alone with the babysitter when fire breaks out. She is upstairs asleep, and the fire cuts off the stairs. Her parents return home to see the house and trees engulfed in flames. Her mother uses her acrobatic abilities to scale a small tree to reach her daughter’s bedroom window. As her mother holds her close, they fall into the firefighters’ net. This takes the reader back to Anna’s statement that there are many things you can do during a fall.