What information is given about Anna in the first three paragraphs of Louise Erdrich's short story "The Leap"? Why does Erdrich include this information?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In the first three paragraphs of Louise Erdrich's short story "The Leap," the narrator relays a few different details about her mother Anna to connect her to her past as a leaping trapeze artist and to describe her present vulnerable state of blindness in order to capture the theme of bravely taking leaps of faith towards the future.

Though the narrator never thinks about her mother's past as a trapeze artist, in the opening paragraphs, she notes how lightly Anna touches things as she moves, how she never loses her balance, never bumps into any unexpected objects, and how there is a "catlike precision of her movements in old age." In the opening paragraphs, the narrator attributes all of these details to Anna's training as a trapeze artist since she was one member of a husband and wife act called the Flying Avalons. In striking contrast to Anna's movements, we also learn that in the very first paragraph that Anna is now blinded by cataracts.

Interestingly, Anna's blindness also parallels the blindfolded finale she used to perform when she was still working with her first husband in the Flying Avalons. The blindness serves as a symbol used to develop the theme concerning bravely taking leaps of faith to secure the unknown future.

Throughout the rest of the story, the narrator informs the reader that Anna took three leaps of faith throughout her life that saved the narrator's life three times. When calamity struck the trapeze act just as Anna and her husband were performing their blindfolded finale, Anna took a leap of faith by choosing to rescue herself by holding on to a burning hot wire rather than go down with her husband. Since Anna preserved her own life, she left open the possibility that the narrator could be born. While recuperating in the hospital, Anna took a leap of faith by deciding to marry the attending doctor, the narrator's father, thus further opening the door to the possibility the narrator would be born. At a time when the narrator was trapped by a fire, Anna took a final leap of faith by pursuing a daring rescue only a trapeze artist could manage. Since all of these acts were leaps of faith, Anna performed them all metaphorically and sometimes literally blindfolded.

Hence, as we can see, the details the narrator includes in the opening paragraphs to illustrate Anna as both a leaping trapeze artist and blind serve to help capture one of the author's central themes.

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