The Motorcycle Diaries


Ernesto Che Guevara

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Themes and Colors
Class Consciousness Theme Icon
Suppression and Reclamation of Indigenous Culture Theme Icon
Medicine, Politics, and Helping Others Theme Icon
Growing Up Theme Icon
Individuality vs. Ideology Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Motorcycle Diaries, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Class Consciousness

Over the course of Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s youthful motorcycle trip across South America, he learns about the class system that structures South American societies, and he comes to understand the injustice of oppressing the working class (called the “proletariat” in the Marxist terminology that Ernesto uses). Ernesto, an ambitious young man from the middle class who has many opportunities available to him, does not at first understand the importance of class-based analysis of social issues…

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Suppression and Reclamation of Indigenous Culture

Ernesto travels across a continent in which, ever since the arrival of the first conquistadors, white Europeans have controlled cultural institutions and historical narratives. European landmarks, religions, and languages have replaced pre-Columbian ones, and serious study of indigenous culture is a rarity. Moreover, the impoverished proletarian classes are mostly comprised of indigenous people whose economic and political oppression coincides with the erasure of their culture. Ernesto makes the connection between class and culture, asserting that…

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Medicine, Politics, and Helping Others

At the time of their motorbike trip across South America, Ernesto and Alberto are studying to become doctors in Buenos Aires, a wealthy city in which the average middle class citizen has access to sophisticated medical care and training. However, their journey through remote parts of the continent reveals to them that modern medicine is rare or nonexistent for many of their countrymen. Witnessing the disparities in medical care across South America teaches Ernesto and…

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Growing Up

Ernesto begins his road trip through South America as a bourgeois medical student seeking an adventure before resuming his studies; he finishes it as a budding revolutionary with a growing awareness of the faults of the social and political systems within which he lives. As the memoir progresses, Ernesto shifts from narrating personal escapades in a lighthearted manner to conducting serious class and cultural analysis based on his observations and experiences. Alberto also matures significantly…

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Individuality vs. Ideology

As Ernesto grows into an avid Communist during his trip, he has to decide whether to prioritize his own needs and desires as an individual or the demands of the broader ideology to which he is committed. Structuring his memoir as a collection of impromptu notes jotted down in medias res, Ernesto gives the reader a compelling self-portrait of himself as a unique individual with his own set of personal goals and questions. He…

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