Student Question

What is the irony in "The Leap"?

Quick answer:

The irony in "The Leap" is that the mother escaped death by jumping (leaping) during a circus tent collapse, but her first child was stillborn.

Expert Answers

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Perhaps the greatest irony, or contrast between what is expected and what does occur in "The Leap," is the stillborn death of the mother's first child, a child she attempted to save by not crashing to the ground with her beloved husband when lightening struck the main pole of the circus tent, causing the tent to collapse just as the flying Avalons were about to perform their last feat in the air. At that moment, the seven-months' pregnant mother could have grabbed the ankle of her husband and fallen with him.

Instead, she changed direction. Her body twisted toward a heavy wire and she managed to hang on to the braided metal, still hot from the lightning strike.

Afterwards, she was taken to the hospital where she must have hemorrhaged because she was made to remain until the birth of her daughter. Sadly and ironically, the baby that the trapeze artist struggled so hard to save was stillborn.

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There are other ironies, as well:

  • It is ironic that the narrator's mother, who was in a most dangerous position at the moment the tent collapsed, simply burned the palms of her hands and other people were killed.
  • Even more ironic is the fact that she only burned her hands, but when the rescuers came, they broke her arm as they tried to extricate her from the rubble. Also, in the process of rescuing her, "an overeager" person caused the collapse of a section of the tent that had "a huge buckle"; this buckle knocked her unconscious.
  • It is also ironic that, although she lost a life in the hospital, the narrator's mother found a new love in the attending doctor, who married her and gave her life with another baby daughter. 

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