What are the literal and figurative leaps in the story "The Leap"?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In "The Leap" by Louise Eldrich, the narrator relates the life of her mother, one-half of the Flying Avalons, who executed an amazing leap that saved her life and the life of her unborn daughter. Now she is an old woman who is blind, but she has never lost her wonderful sense of balance and negotiates her way with ease.

  • The Literal Leaps

1. When lightning strikes the main pole of the circus tent in which Anna and Harold Avalon are in the midst of their blindfold trapeze sequence and her husband falls to the ground.

...she could have grasped his ankle,...and gone down clutching him. Instead, she changed direction. Her body twisted toward a heavy wire and she managed to hang on the the braided metal, still hot from the lightning strike.

2. After the narrator's mother marries the doctor who treats her injuries from the fire, the narrator is born. Later as a child, their house catches fire and, when the extension ladder on the fire truck breaks, the mother knows she must do something. So, she climbs a tree near the daughter's bedroom window. But, she cannot reach her daughter without leaping through the air onto a branch that breaks as she falls.

She was hanging by the backs of her heels from the new gutter we had put in...and smiling.

Then, the mother coaxes her daughter out of the window, holding her tightly.

3. The third leap is that taken after the mother has her child in her arms, as they dive for the rescue net, the "circle." 

  • Figurative Leap

The figurative leap is one made by the mother, who learns to read and "leaps" into the world of her well-educated husband.