The Leap Themes

Even in Old Age, We Retain Qualities from Youth

Despite the fact that Anna never discusses the time she spent as part of a blindfolded trapeze act in her youth, the native grace she possessed then remains part of her even in her old age. Anna has gone blind, and yet, her daughter (the narrator) says, she never loses her balance, knocks anything over, or even bumps into anything as she moves around in total darkness. She has not lost her poise, even though she is quite advanced in years and has lost the sense of sight.

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Overcoming Personal Tragedy to Live a Happy, Fulfilling Life

Though Anna lost her husband and her unborn child as a result of the terrible accident at the circus, she still grew to love another, even after her personal tragedy. She accepted the tutelage of the doctor in the hospital so that she could learn how to read and write, and then she fell in love with him. They married and moved into his family's farmhouse, building a life together and even having a daughter of their own: the narrator herself.

A Mother's Love for Her Child Transcends All Danger

As part of the Flying Avalons, Anna tries to save herself and her unborn child even after she realizes that her husband will die as a result of his fall. Later, she puts herself in grave danger to save her daughter from the fire that rages within their home and blocks all passage to the girl. Anna ignores the fact that people are watching, strips off her dress (so that it will not hinder her movements or catch fire, one imagines), shimmies out onto a too-small branch that snaps when she leaps from it, and saves her daughter. Anna appears to give no thought to her own personal safety and cares only for her daughter's.

Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

The clearest theme in “The Leap” is presented by the title itself, that of bridging gaps, making connections between things. Physical, temporal, and emotional connections provide a thread that runs through the story. The most obvious are the two physical leaps made by Anna, as a trapeze artist, to save herself and her children from fire. In each leap she bridged a physical gap, but she also made an emotional leap. When lightning struck and her first husband fell, she clearly chose where her loyalties lay. Instead of grasping his ankle and going down clutching him, she chose to save her own life and that of her unborn child.

Anna’s final leap also involved an emotional jump, a leap of faith. The narrator says that her mother saw that there was no rescue for her, yet she stripped off her clothes to make the attempt. Anna’s again choosing life for her child manifested her continued connectedness with the future.

Another temporal bridge to which the narrator refers is that of her feeling of oneness with her mother’s stillborn child, whom she considered a “less finished version” of herself. In her youth she sat at the child’s grave, watching her tombstone, which seemed to grow larger with time, “the edge drawing near, the edge of everything,” closing, then, the gap between her and the child.

This theme can also be seen in the various circular implications that permeate the story, such as the narrator’s own return from her “failed life, where the land is flat,” to her childhood home, and in her mother’s return to a more dependent state. Anna’s blindness in old age is reminiscent of her blindfold trapeze act of her earlier years, as well as her leap onto the burning house. In an act of redemption, perhaps for the first child who had died, she provided onlookers with the kind of spectacle that she had once performed for crowds—an impossible feat that she made look easy by hanging by her heels from the rain gutter and smiling after she landed. This time she succeeded where earlier she had failed, and...

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