buoyant, bouncing steps

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Senior Member
In 1969, while Jo and Dave were sitting, rapt, in front of their television set, watching Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong take those first buoyant, bouncing steps on the moon, Bethie had been in San Francisco, shacked up with some guy named Francis.
source: Mrs Everything by Jennifer Weiner

Is buoyant used literally here (kind of floating in the air due to weak gravitational force) or figuratively meaning cheerful and optimistic?

Thank you.
  • kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    That's how I read it, too, but it doesn't mean that the word doesn't have other nuances that go along with it that might have an affect on the reader's subconscious imagination. Buoyant relates to feelings of happiness and success, which were definitely secondary psychological effects of the moon landing for the whole country. The similar word rapt is also used. And that is contrasted with the pedestrian and negative tone of "shacked up with some guy named Francis".

    So one sister is wrapped up in grand, history-changing events and the other sister is slumming it with "some guy".

    I don't know if it was intentional but it works on that level, too.
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