An individual’s discovery is transformative on their perceptions of the world. This is the case for the book ‘The Motorcycle Diaries’ by Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara and Keats’s sonnet “On first looking into Chapman’s Homer”. In this book, we are taken on Che’s journey as he travels Latin America as a young man, before the fame. His diary entries lead the reader into his own eyes, as a typical young man on an adventure, not the revolutionary figure we all associate him with. Through his descriptive entries of the landscape he journeys across, we discover his deeper connection to the land of South America and the love he has for its people. As well as the beautiful things that South America has to offer, Ernesto consequently discovers the inequality and poverty the plagues the continent. This discovery then leads him to a greater self-awareness which leads him to a higher calling in life. Upon making these discoveries, che comes to a realisation that he needs to adopt in order to help people. In the sonnet, we are faced with a similar path of discovery as the one we see in ‘The motorcycle diaries’.
We also see how the language Keats uses adds depth to his discoveries. The motorcycle diaries allows the reader to discover life of Guevara before he was the revolutionary ‘che’. Through his diary entries, we are able to see the young minded personality that is normally overshadowed by his public figure. Upon discovering the young Ernesto Guevara, we are faced with his youthful tendencies as well as the weaknesses which plague him. The heroic figure of Che is challenged when we learn that he needs “take a few puffs of my asthma inhaler”. This defies our image of che the revolutionary hero and allows us to develop a connection to his humanised personality. We also witness the young Ernesto display characteristics of a typical male which also defies his image of South America’s saviour. Ernesto tries his luck with a married woman whilst he was drunk as he “took her by the hand and tried to steer her outside” again reinforcing the young, impulsive and human side of Che, which enables us to develop a deeper connection to the public figure.
Over the course of ches journey, he discovers a deeper connection to South America. This is a form of spiritual awakening as he explores deeper into the heart of the continent, his paints a picture of the landscape with his words like “The full moon is silhouetted against the sea, smothering the waves with silver reflection”. The descriptive image che relays through his journal is spiritual in a sense as it conveys his connection and love for the land. Che also develops a spiritual connection as he discovers the historical significance of the ancient structures that exist throughout Peru. Che describes Machu Picchu being “The most important and irrefutable thing, however, is that here we found the pure expression of the most powerful indigenous race in the Americas… The spectacular landscape circling the fortress supplies an essential backdrop, inspiring dreamers to wander its ruins”. This highlights ches greater discovery of the significance that these magnificent buildings have to the people of South America.
The exploration of these cultural buildings leads Che to a greater understanding of the historical significance in which they represent a lost civilization. His greater understanding of South America transforms his appreciation of the land into a spiritual connection. Che’s journey through South America opened his eyes to the poverty and inequality that plagued its people. Che’s discovery of the poverty and inequality in countries like Peru and Chile was a shock to him because of his origins. Argentina is a relatively wealthy country compared to the rest of South America and it is most likely that Che came from a wealthy family considering he was studying medicine. For example, Che says “The standard of living in Chile is lower than in Argentina”, which reinforces the difference between his wealthy background in a prosperous country compared to the poverty that exists amongst the population in Chile. Che also came across indigenous Indians whilst exploring Peru, witnessing firsthand their lifestyle and condition of living.
Che describes the children as malnourished with “distended bellies and rather scrawny”. This again highlights the poverty that devastates parts of South America as well as the inequality that existed. These natives weren’t provided with sufficient housing and food which explains the state in which the children live, lacking proper nutrition. Che’s emotive language conveys his empathy that he has developed for the people of South America. For Che, this was an eye opener and another reason for him to connect to the land, culture and people of South America, affecting his perception of the world around him. Upon Che’s journeys through South America, he discovers a need to address the injustice and poverty that plagues the continent. Through the other discoveries that Che has made throughout his travels of South America, like establishing his spiritual connection to the land and its people as well as the poverty and inequality that plagues the continent, he realises that his beloved South America is in urgent need of help.
Che encounters with mass poverty and illness in South America leaves him to believe that “doctors are powerless”. It is at this point where he realises he can only do so much as a doctor. Che started to aspire to something greater in this realisation of powerlessness as he “began to see that there was something that seemed to me almost as important as being a famous research and this was helping people.” This expresses Che’s transformation into an individual that wants to fix the world around him. All of his prior discoveries have led Che to this final internal discovery that he leads him to become the revolutionary we all know of. Transformative discovery follows a path which exists in both the Motorcycle Diaries and Keats’s “On looking into Chapman’s Homer”. This structure that is present in both texts of discovery consists of three parts, the first being in the state of preparedness, being unconsciously aware for some form of transformative discovery.
This is true for Keats’s sonnet as he is searching for new material to inspire his literature within the first two quatrains similar to ches gradual awareness in the first part of the motorcycle diaries. The turning point in which the transformation occurs is the next stage where the unconscious becomes the conscious which is the Volta in the sonnet. Keats uses this simile “Then I felt like some watcher of the skies” to express the significance upon making the discovery. This is also present in the motorcycle diaries. Ches turning point in the text is when he is confronted with an ill and realises “it is at times like this, when a doctor is conscious of his complete powerlessness, that he longs for change”. The transformative discovery for the motorcycle diaries is the rest of the entries which highlights his development of che becoming politically aware; and Keats’s being his sonnet itself which stands as an example of his greater work after the discovery.