Where does the leap take place (atmosphere) in Louise Erdrich's story "The Leap"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are actually two physical leaps and one psychological one. The physical ones take place under the circus tent and on a roof of a home; the psychological one occurs in the hospital when the mother learns to read. All three of these leaps save lives. While different from one another, all three leaps occur in the atmosphere of crisis.

  • The first leap occurs during an electrical storm in which lightning strikes the main pole and the electricity races down the guy wires. Anna Avalon could have grabbed her husband's ankles and fallen with him, but she twisted her body and changed directions, desperately grasping the guy wire, saving her life. 
    However, she burned her hands severely. She was lowered carefully to the sawdust ring; however, a rescuer accidentally broke her arm in freeing her from the entanglement of wire. So, she spent a month and a half in the hospital where her baby was stillborn.
  • While she was in the hospital, Anna learned to read "as a way to overcome the boredom and depression." This was her second leap, as her mind was opened to the printed page; in addition, she fell in love with her doctor, the narrator's father.

"I wonder if my father calculated the exchange he offered: one form of flight for another.

  • The third leap occurred after the mother and father return home from their dinner date and discover that the house is in flames. Although it has been years since her acrobatic act, Anna strips off her dress and climbs a broken ladder, then inches along the length of a tree bough until she is able to grab a limb and swing toward the house. However, the branch cracks and falls to the ground as Anna leaps through the air and lands on the roof. Then, she hangs upside down from the backs of her heel on the gutter, instructing her daughter how to swing open the window. She enters the room and grabs Anna; they fly out the window together heading downward to the firefighters net and safety.
Read the study guide:
The Leap

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