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The conflict in The Leap by Louise Erdrich is in the choice of whose life to save and it appears twice. The narrator is telling the tale of how she came to be. In doing so, she recounts the two occasions on which her mother had to make a choice about whose life/lives to risk and whose to save. The first came while the narrator's mother was pregnant and still performing with her husband, the narrator's father, as a circus trapeze artist. A terrible lightning storm sent a bolt directly to the Big Top while the two were in mid-flight in a stunt. Her mother had a split-second choice to make and, instead of grabbing for her falling husband and joining him in his plunge to death, she grabbed a burning cable to save her baby at the cost of great personal harm.
The second incident came when the narrator was a child and the house caught on fire while her mother was away from home for a bit. The narrator was trapped upstairs in the blazing house when her mother came home to firemen at an impasse as to how to rescue the little girl. Once again the mother had a choice to make as to whose life to risk and whose life to save. She stripped off her clothes, climbed a tree, went out on a dangerous limb (physically and metaphorically), leapt to the house and, suspended by her heels dug into the roof's drain gutter, pulled her child to safety through the open bedroom window.
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