In James Dickey’s poem “The Leap,” he tells about his memory of a “thin/and muscular, wide-mouthed, eager to prove” (21-22) girl, Jane MacNaughton. He talks about how she goes from being, “the fastest runner in the seventh grade”, (3) to a “Mother of four.” (28) Jane who spurned the earth, as a seventh grade runner, left behind the “slow-footed yokels” (44) in her cloud of dust. The playground champion is finally overcome by reality. She returns to dust as a victim of the “eternal process”.
During a school dance, Jane “with a light/Grave Leap”, touches the end of a paper ring. Dickey sees this as a farewell to childhood and a new beginning into adulthood. She is well respected by others and has self-respect, at least enough to leap to touch the paper chain in front of her classmates. She is a young, strong girl and has a world of opportunities at this time in her life. He describes her as the, “the fastest runner in seventh grade.” (3) This implies that she is a girl who capable of accomplishing any dreams she wishes.
Dickey knew and admired Jane, he was “nailed to the ground”, unable to escape his
feelings for her ever since the seventh grade. He feels a connection to her when she touches the
paper ring hanging from the ceiling. He says that she “touched the end of something I began.”
(47) He does not make it sound as if he had a personal relationship with her; however he says
that she should hold on, “to that ring I made for you.” (51) He wants the Jane of his school age
memory to hang on to the paper ring so that he will always remember her as a young, “muscular,
wide-mouthed, eager to prove,” (22) girl that is capable of doing anything. He uses the ring as a
symbol in his memory, as a way to keep her alive so that he does not have to cope with her
death. The ring can also be a symbol of marriage or companionship. He uses this first leap to
represent Jane in all of her...
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