Beyond the Sky and Earth: A Journey into Bhutan Analysis Breakdown

A breakdown of the non-fiction text from the Edexcel English Language Non-Fiction Anthology. Exploring GAPS, title analysis and a paragraph by paragraph coverage of indicative content. Useful for supporting student revision and embedding sound understanding of linguistic features within the text.

Genre: Well-researched, informative, travel writing piece. Retrospective but written in present tense for immediacy.

Audience: Travel enthusiasts, especially those interested in remote, lesser-known cultures

Purpose: To narrate her experience, to inform, to pay tribute to Bhutan and its people

Setting: Brief reference to stop-overs on flight from Canada, detailed description of mountain ranges isolating Bhutan, with a particular focus on the capital, Thimphu.

Title: “Beyond the Sky and the Earth” is an allusion to a Bhutanese expression of gratitude: this is structurally echoed in the final line “I am full of admiration for this small country

  • Initial features/ First and second paragraph: Begins with a descriptive and figurative paragraph “picture a giant child gathering earth” that lists the expansive features of Bhutan’s mountain ranges “mountains all around, rolling into peaks, rolling into valleys”; employs hyperbole to emphasise scale “Bhutan is all and only mountains”; Utilises repetition for emphasis “again and again…landmass meeting landmass
  • Second paragraph: includes travel detail establishing intense distance from narrator’s familiar landscape “five different flights over four days to get here” some personal and narrative detail reflecting travel journal conventions “I am exhausted but I cannot sleep”; vivid alliterative and natural imagery evokes intrigue and sense of adventure “baked brown plains of IndiaI watch mountains rise to meet the moon”; metaphorical imagery “the earth…was a convulsion of crests and gorges” depicting the awesome strength & potential violence within nature;
  • Third paragraph: Switches to narrative detail with some characterisation of her companions “…the next morning I share breakfast… with two other Canadians…Lorna has…a no-nonsense, home-on-the-farm-demeanour… Sasha…slight and dark with an impish smile…” -Zeppa utilises this character detail “Both…have travelled extensively…I stay close to them” to convey and juxtapose her own inexperience and apprehension: this places her on a similar footing with inexperienced readers, making the travelogue more relatable and engaging.
  • Paragraphs 4,5 and 6: Descriptive paragraphs that focus on the town of Thimphu: Information about its inhabitants “population is 20,000…Blue-suited policemen…direct the occasional truck…using incomprehensible but graceful gestures”  -connotations of ‘graceful’ indicate that she is very fond of the local people; visual imagery of the town’s environment “buildings all have the same pitched roof, trefoil windows and heavy beams painted with lotus flowers, jewels and clouds” –depicts colourful heritage. This is contrasted with asyndetic listing of staple foods and basic equipment “dried fish, plastic buckets” as well as Western paraphernalia “acid washed jeans, Willie Nelson’s greatest hits
  • Paragraph 5: DetailsThimphu’s surprisingly recent history and development “The town itself looks very old…but…it didn’t exist thirty-odd years ago”; Inclusion of their guide’s dialogue “Thimphu will look like New York…when you come back after a year in the east”: Inclusion of rural lexis and indigenous diction “rice paddies… fields, a few farm houses …dzong…fortresses” –to capture the verisimilitude and heritage of the area.
  • Paragraph 6: Zeppa adds more detail of heritage, architecture and rural landscapes “Tashichho Dzong, the seat of the Royal Government…golden-tipped fortress… beyond… hamlets… fields… river… forest” –Zeppa ends with a countering quip “Thimphu will never look like New York to me”, once again, conveying her mystical awe and admiration of the area.
  • Paragraphs 7 & 8: these paragraphs mainly focus on the characterisation of the Bhutanese people, their heritage and culture “a very handsome people…beautiful, aristocratic faces with dark almond shaped eyes” her lyrical analogy reinforcing the narrator’s clearly favourable view of them; this is reiterated through positive abstract nouns “dignity, unselfconsciousness, good humour, grace”: accurate description of indigenous clothing “women wear a kira, brightly striped, ankle length dress…the men a gho a knee-length robe that resembles a kimono” further demonstrates Zeppa’s cultural curiosity and creates interest with exotic detail.
  • Paragraph 9: a densely explanatory paragraph containing rich historical, demographic, religious and linguistic information “Tibetan immigrants settled… before tenth century… eighth century… shamanist religion…Tibetan lama arrived 1616…Druk Yul…Thunder Dragon…Rainbow District of Desires” –Zeppa balances her thorough research with alluring and charming elucidations, clearly targeting a readership who enjoys learning about unfamiliar and fascinating cultures.
  • Paragraph 10: A more aggressive portrayal of the Bhutanese people is included in the final paragraph through the writer’s use of idioms “Relations with the British took a nasty turn…hue but similar cry” –depicting their fierce reactions during the colonial era: “Bhutanese raids on the British territory…back slapped, hair pulled, and his face rubbed with wet dough” 

-Once more, Zeppa foregrounds her admiration of the Bhutanese “Bhutan’s preservation of its independence was remarkable…full of admiration

Presentation of identity: To begin with, the author presents herself as involved in an arduous journey “exhausted…very cold…” befitting the adventurous nature of travelogues. She also appears apprehensive and inexperienced “I stay close to them”. She also seems genuinely interested in the Bhutanese culture and heritage, her dense paragraphs reflecting an academic and curious mind. She is clearly impressed and even smitten with her experience with recurring positive and lyrical descriptions of Bhutan and its people. She seems to have a slightly critical attitude to the role that Western influences have played in that area, both historically and more recently: Her depiction of Ashley Eden’s ‘disastrous visit’ contains elements of farce “his face rubbed with wet dough” and examples of colonial modernity such as “a Rambo poster in a bar” are referred to as “cultural infiltration” which connotes unwanted intrusion.

Lexis/ Diction: geographical lexis conveys Zeppa’s research and expertise “subcontinent…crests and gorges…pinnacles…Everest…Tibetan plateau…desert…sea level

Architectural lexis: “pitched roof…trefoil windows and heavy beams…one-storied…shuttered windows

Rural, agricultural lexis: “rice paddies…farm houses…terraced fields..pines…lotus

Indigenous language: “dzong…gho…kira…kimono…Bhotanta

Facts and Figures “population is 20,000…4,500 meters…” dates “eighth…tenth century…1627…1864”

Juxtaposition: Juxtaposes vivid, natural beauty of traditional, rural Asia with gaudy and synthetic industrial products of modernity “plasticky white bread…hideously coloured Orange cream biscuits…a Rambo poster in a bar…they are startling against the Bhutanese-ness of everything else”

Juxtaposes “good-humoured” depictions with more violent characteristics in final paragraph “raids…backed slapped, hair pulled…forced to sign”

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