Anna Avalon is the narrator’s mother and the story’s protagonist. At the time of the narrator’s recollection, Anna is blind, though she was once able to see. Anna is the character who is most fully developed, the one whose history and emotions are explained and provide the meat of the story. Anna is also the character most directly related to the title of the story. A former trapeze artist, it is she who makes the leap that ultimately saves the narrator’s life.
Although elderly and blind, Anna is still coordinated and graceful, making her way through a cluttered house without bumping into things or knocking things over. She has kept no mementos of her former life as a circus performer, yet her training has ingrained in her a certain physical precision.
Orphaned as a child, Anna was taken in by the circus and treated as family while being trained on the trapeze. Though illiterate, she had traveled extensively throughout Europe by the time she was a young woman.
Anna’s first husband, Harry, was her performing partner as well, and at the time of the accident that killed him, she was seven months pregnant with their daughter. The trauma of the accident was too much for the fetus to withstand, and the baby was born dead and buried near the house in which Anna and the narrator currently live.
Anna eventually learned to read and write, and reading became a major part of her existence. Her inability to read once she went blind is, in fact, what brings the narrator back to her childhood home. Anna needs someone to read to her.
Harry (Harold) Avalon was Anna’s first husband and performing partner. It was Harry who died in the trapeze accident.
Anna’ssecondhusbandisthenarrator’sfather, and like the narrator, he remains nameless. He is not a major character in story, though he’s the doctor who took care of Anna after the trapeze accident left her injured and widowed. While she was recuperating, he taught her how to read and write, and the two fell in love and married. When he died, their daughter came home to live with Anna.
The reader never learns the name of the narrator, but she is Anna’s grown daughter by her second husband. The story is told from her perspective, and she focuses most intently on the background of her mother as well as on the influence her mother had on her.
The narrator has come home to live with Anna, who is now a blind widow and can no longer read on her own. But she does not mind leaving behind her life in the West, for it is a life she considers a failure.
The narrator feels indebted to her mother for ensuring her existence not once, but three times, and that gratitude is the basis for the entire story.
Sara Constantakis – Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, vol. 30, Louise Erdrich, Published by Gale Group, 2010