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The power of opposites in rhetoric


When Neil Armstrong climbed down a ladder from Apollo 11 in 1969 and set his foot down on the surface of the moon, he declared famously:  “That’s one small step for a man, but a giant leap for mankind.” That statement became almost as iconic as the moon-landing itself, capturing as it did so poignantly how a relatively mundane action could be so vast and historic in its significance. And what made that sentence work so well? It was in its use of antithesis — the bold juxtaposition of contrasting concepts placed next to each other for dramatic or rhetorical effect and carefully balanced within the structure of the sentence. Continue reading