What are the three "leaps" that the mother takes in "The Leap"?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Louise Eldrich's "The Leap," the mother has taken three leaps: 1. A leap to safety after lightning strikes during her and her husband's circus act. 2. A "leap" into literacy, and 3. A leap from the roof gutter into her burning home to rescue her daughter as they then leap into the safety net below. 

  1. The first leap occurs as the mother is a part of a trapeze act with her husband. During their act, lightning strikes the main pole of the circus tent as her husband hangs from the swing by his knees ready to catch his wife. But, when he misses her, she rips off her blindfold and changes direction by twisting her flying body, somehow grabbing one of the wires and, thus, saving herself.
  2. While she is in the hospital for the burns she has suffered, she falls in love with her attending physician and marries him. He offers his wife "one form of flight for another"; that is, she moves from being on the flying trapeze to being able to "leap" from a narrow world into many worlds of the imagination by learning to read with the help of her husband.
  3. When the daughter is seven years old, the house catches fire. Having fallen asleep, the babysitter wakes to find the stairway leading to the daughter's bedroom upstairs blocked by flames. Shortly thereafter, the mother and father return; so, the mother strips to her undergarments, climbs a ladder, and steps onto a tree limb which just touches the roof. From there she leaps to another branch that cracks as she vaults toward the roof. But, she manages to land by her daughter's window, "hanging by the backs of her heels from the new gutter." Instructing her daughter how to open the window and prop it, she swings down, enters, and picks up the daughter. Then, holding the girl she leaps with her into the firefighters' net.

In acknowledgement to her mother, the narrator writes that she owes her existence to her mother three times. These three times are the two physical leaps, and the other time is her mother's marriage to her physician, the father of the narrator because without him, too, she would not exist.

The first was when she saved herself.
...the second time then, to the two of them and the hospital that brought them together.

The third is the rescue from the burning house.

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