Ernesto has left Caracas and is staying the night in a mountain village. He feels that “everything solid [has] melted away” and he is engulfed by darkness. In this village, he meets a stranger. Although Ernesto only gives a vague description of this man and his practical circumstances, he seems to be some sort of political activist. Ernesto notes that he “escaped the knife of dogmatism” as a young man in Europe and is now wandering among countries, waiting for revolution to occur.
The phrase about solid things melting is a direct reference to the writings of Karl Marx, demonstrating the extent to which Communist thinking has influenced Ernesto’s thinking. The geographic isolation Ernesto describes mirrors his psychological isolation, as he has distanced himself from most of the values and social standards he took for granted at the beginning of this trip. He’s ready to embrace a new set of principles, and the stranger helps him articulate them. Ernesto’s description implies that the stranger may have lived through an earlier Communist revolution somewhere in Europe.
The stranger gives a long speech about revolution, which Ernesto transcribes verbatim onto the page. He says that while revolution is inevitable and will allow the people to take power in every country, it requires the sacrifice of many innocent lives. “Revolution is impersonal,” he says, so he prioritizes an ultimate ideological goal over individual lives.
The otherworldly stranger’s sudden entrance and dramatic guidance are akin to a religious apparition, but the only religion he’s peddling is revolution. This shows that Ernesto is coming to view revolution as something sacred. In fact, it’s so sacred that it justifies the sacrifice of innocent lives. To Ernesto, an ideology that will serve the greater good is more important than any one individual’s life.
After saying goodbye to the stranger, Ernesto experiences what he describes as a personal “revelation.” He, too, now views revolution as inevitable and declares that he will be “with the people” when it comes. Ernesto imagines this revolution as a cataclysmic conflict in which he will play an active and violent part, “savoring the acrid smell of gunpowder and blood [and] the enemy’s death.” In the final sentence, Ernesto imagines himself sharing in the “bestial howl of the triumphant proletariat” when this battle is won.
Ernesto is now completely committed to the struggle for violent political revolution. The extreme language he uses to describe this conclusion shows that his personality as an individual is totally subsumed by his ideology. The final passage of the novel represents the culmination of Ernesto’s political development. It also shows his complete transformation as a person, from a precocious, middle-class student to a radical thinker primed to become a revolutionary.