What are two events that show the rising action in "The Leap"?

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The short story "The Leap" by Louise Erdrich is narrated by a woman whose mother used to be Anna of the Flying Avalons, part of a trapeze act in a circus. The narrator writes that "I owe her my existence three times." She then goes on to describe...

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The short story "The Leap" by Louise Erdrich is narrated by a woman whose mother used to be Anna of the Flying Avalons, part of a trapeze act in a circus. The narrator writes that "I owe her my existence three times." She then goes on to describe three events in which her mother saves her life.

The rising action in a story is comprised of a series of incidents that lead up to the climax. In "The Leap," the climax is when the mother uses her acrobatic skills to rescue the narrator, her daughter, from a house fire. The two major events that occur before that would be those that you are looking for as answers to this question.

In the beginning of the story, her mother is old and blind. However, her skill and balance in navigating the house despite her handicap makes the narrator recall her mother's earlier expertise on the trapeze. From this she is led to reminisce about these key events.

The first event takes place during the last performance of the Flying Avalons. Lightning strikes while Anna and her husband are performing. Her husband is killed and so is the unborn child in Anna's womb, but the narrator's mother manages to save herself by pulling off her blindfold and grasping for a wire still hot from the lightning. She is able to ride this safely down to the ground.

The second event that the narrator claims is responsible for her existence, which would also be considered part of the rising action of the story, is the meeting in the hospital of her mother and father. He is a doctor who comes in to look at her broken arm. She has been illiterate, and he teaches her to read and write. When she is healed, they move to the old farm where the climax of the story takes place.

The house catching fire is a third event that is part of the rising action. However, the thrilling rescue of the narrator by her mother is the climax, so it would not be included in a list of rising action incidents.

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If the climax of the story takes place when the narrator's mother, Anna, saves her from their burning home, then the conflict, it seems, is between the narrator and nature. The narrator describes her mother as being responsible for her continued existence three times, and this was the third, so it seems that the rising action would begin with the first instance when nature might have conspired to prevent or curtail the narrator's life, what we call the inciting incident: her mother's first brush with a natural disaster, a tornado and storm that contributed to her first husband's death and could have resulted in Anna's own death. Had Anna died then, the narrator would never have been born. The narrator says,

When [my mother's] hands did not meet her husband's, my mother tore her blindfold away. As he swept past her on the wrong side, she could have grasped his ankle, the toe-end of his tights, and gone down clutching him. Instead, she changed direction. Her body twisted toward a heavy wire and she managed to hang on to the braided metal, still hot from the lightning strike.

This is the first event to contribute to the rising action, the first time nature could have thwarted the narrator's existence. As a result of the storm (and the too-enthusiastic efforts of a would-be savior), Anna must go to the hospital, and this is where she meets her second husband, the narrator's father. The narrator says, "I owe my existence, the second time then, to the two of them and the hospital that brought them together." The storm sent Anna to the hospital, and this is the second event that contributed to the beginning of the narrator's life and led to the climax between her and the house fire from which her mother saves her.

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"The Leap" is told retrospectively. The narrator recalls the three events that made her life possible. "I owe her my existence three times." The narrator owes her existence to her mother. The reader gets the impression that her mother is responsible for her being alive. These three events contribute to the rising action.

The first event is her mother saving herself. Lightning strikes during the acrobatic performance. Her mother's first husband is killed; the mother is able to save herself, and the first daughter dies in the hospital.

The second event is the union of her mother and father: made possible by the lightning strike and the fall because they meet in the hospital. So, the first two events are what make the narrator's life possible: her mother stays alive and as a result of the accident, she meets the man who will become the narrator's father.

The reader is now left to speculate what the third event might be. It could simply be her birth itself. But it turns out to be something more dramatic. Note that the narrator does begin the story by illustrating her mother's athletic ability:

She has never upset an object or as much as brushed a magazine onto the floor. She has never lost her balance or bumped into a closet door left carelessly open.

This is just a hint but it does add to the rising action as the narrator begins to the describe her mother's action during the fire: the third event. The two events with the most action that lead to the climax (saving her daughter/narrator from the fire) would be the initial fall and the final leap: the leaps that connect events in life. In the first, the mother saves herself which enables her, years later, to give birth and then save her daughter. There is a poetic connection between the two events. Lightning was the cause of the first fall. And when the narrator is saved in the end, her mother's heartbeat sounds like "thunder, long as the roll of the drums." The drum roll is what one would hear prior to a dramatic trapeze act. The trapeze act/accident foreshadows the "leap" in the end. The rising action is illustrated in how the three events lead/leap to another.

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