The Motorcycle Diaries

Categories: Motorcycling

The question

Discoveries often require individuals to reconsider their perspective and develop a new understanding of the world around them. Examine this statement in relation to your prescribed text and at least ONE related text.

Prescribed Text: The Motorcycle Diaries, Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, 2003 (nonfiction/memoir) Related Text: Wide Open Road, The Triffids, 1986 (music video)

Introduction opens with thesis statement, directly linking to question, introduces texts to be analysed, states their relevance to the question

Adventuring is an effective means of reviewing our understanding of the world.

When we engage in different experiences, we uncover aspects of our self that lead to emotional revelations. Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara’s memoir The Motorcycle Diaries details his travels through Latin America with friend Alberto Granado. A mix of informative and idealistic revelations, Guevara challenges the reader to accept his changing perspective of society through personal interactions. The Triffids’ 1986 music video for Wide Open Road, written by David McComb, shows the impact of a spontaneous reaction to a broken relationship.

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Although the catalyst for these travels vary, both texts explore the emotional discovery possible from new experiences.

Topic sentence links to question

Prescribed text appears first with discussion of structure, writing style and genre

Analysis of figurative language with relevant evidence

A long distance journey provides many opportunities to participate in exploits that challenge our established world view. The Motorcycle Diaries is structured as 46 brief diary entries over nine months from December 1951 with each chapter crafted as a discrete moment of discovery. Guevara’s daughter, Aleida March, provides a preface to suggest a positive opinion of the young man behind the adult revolutionary by describing him as ‘increasingly sensitive’.

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By acknowledging the original journal was ‘rewritten by Ernesto himself as a narrative’ we are prepared for elements of bildungsroman shown through the shift from subjective to objective language as the memoir unfolds.

The opening chapters directly challenge the reader’s knowledge of Guevara and frame the discovery to follow in the translated titles ‘so we understand each other’ and then acknowledges the ‘man he used to be’ by clarifying how the adventure came about. His explanation of notes as ‘mental photographs’ reinforces the careful crafting of his personal perspective. Alerting us to his meditative writing style, Guevara personifies the ocean as a ‘confidant’ that will never reveal secrets. His effective imagery in ‘the discovery of the ocean’ personifies the ‘moon silhouetted against the sea, smothering the waves with silver reflections.’ Sibilance extends the sensuous nature of Alberto’s first encounter with the sea, highlighting Guevara’s preference for engaging us through figurative language revealing a contemplative tone.

Topic sentence introduces related text through link to previous paragraph

Textual analysis links to thesis through all modes: film, music and lyrics

Final sentence links to thesis argument

Similarly, Wide Open Road sparks viewing interest and guides the viewer’s discovery through strong images that affect the viewer emotionally with the gradual layering of instruments as the band emerges from misty clouds suggesting confusion. Darkening silhouettes become substantial then fade into landscape as a wide shot reveals a lone vehicle solidifying with the increasing musical beat. Like Guevara’s The Motorcycle Diaries the journey becomes a process of discovery with a strong emotional impact. McComb’s lyrics metaphorically explore a visceral reaction as ‘drums rolled off in my
forehead’ and ‘guns went off in my chest’ as he responds to a relationship’s surprise ending.

These opening lines are accompanied by a crisp drum beat and low saturated colour, adding intensity with a close-up of McComb. The singer further outlines his experience of ‘carrying the baby just for you’ symbolizing shared hopes and sacrifice as a car appears on a dusty road coinciding with the line ‘crying in the wilderness’. Tracking shots and fleeting images of trees and landscape suggest movement at speed as the chorus repeats the title line ‘wide open road’. The wide shot of a vast blue sky for ‘big and empty’ illustrates a sense of loss as the chorus ends representing this road trip through the countryside as an emotional escape, the discovery being an acceptance of what has happened.

Topic sentence connects to previous statement with words ‘in contrast’

Evidence from the text is given

Related text is integrated into the argument

Analysis links to self discovery

In contrast, Guevara’s reason for embarking on his tour was primarily exploration and entertainment. He shares his perspective and geographical knowledge of the physical landscape through descriptive passages that typically open a chapter, such as ‘the seven lakes road’. The different size lakes are surrounded by alluring forest, with a personified ‘scent of wilderness caressing’ their nostrils, yet this scenery ‘begins to grate’. Travelling at a ‘tranquil pace’ only allows a glimpse of the surroundings at a ‘superficial level’ and limits the discovery of the true essence of the terrain. In the Cuzco chapters Guevara suggests that true understanding requires a stop of several days to successfully experience the spirituality of each site whereas McComb continues to drive through towns almost unseeing.

Tracking shots of semi-suburban industrial landscapes accompany the second chorus as we witness a service station attendant shaking her head, arms folded, showing a distinct lack of welcome so unlike Guevara’s encounters with the ‘hospitality’ of people he meets. We learn how McComb separated himself from family and friends, acknowledging that he ‘cut them off as limbs’ exploring the pain discovered from self-imposed isolation.

The song finishes with a plaintive flute and lyrics of intense loneliness ‘I reach out to touch you, then I realise’. The word ‘realise ‘ is the clue to the personal discovery that is made. Spinning aerial shots of eerie landmarks and dusty urban spaces appear through clouds before the chorus repeats to a fading ‘It’s a wide open road’ suggesting that life is full of opportunities after undergoing the challenge of self discovery.

Topic sentence introduces point of difference between texts

Focus on a specific chapter follows the process of discovery from experiences to realisation

Where McComb distances himself from others, Guevara welcomes interaction as a means of learning more about himself and the wider world. There are detailed descriptions of action in the chapter titled ‘stowaways’ where we follow Guevara and Granado illegally boarding a ship. Their identification with the ‘friendly’ workers is shown as the harbourmaster is characterised as ‘nasty’ and ‘hostile’ hinting at a subsequent socialist ideology.

When caught by the captain, the travellers admit they had not ‘thought through’ the consequences before agreeing to work for their passage. Their humble chores of potato peeling and deck cleaning provide a glimpse into the realities of everyday life and Guevara recounts their shared moments of reflection leaning ‘side by side on the railing’ and looking out on the sea. Repetition of ‘vocation, our true vocation’ provides a dawning realisation that both Guevara and Granado will remain ‘always curious’ displaying the soul of true adventurers.

Conclusion opens with a version of the thesis and briefly states how the question has been answered

Experiences allow us to emotionally react to situations transforming our outlook of the wider world. Whereas McComb travels alone as a response to emotional pain, Guevara is able to reflect with his companion and share a sense of camaraderie with others. Wide Open Road captures an individual’s desperate flight in an attempt to make sense of an internal landscape, while The Motorcycle Diaries encourages a broad exploration of people and place. Whether travelling through the Australian countryside or Latin America, both texts reveal an emotional resilience in understanding humanity and our world.

Cite this page

The Motorcycle Diaries. (2016, Sep 27). Retrieved from

The Motorcycle Diaries

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