The Motorcycle Diaries by Che Guevara – HSC English Discovery

Introduction

The Motorcycle Diaries by Che Guevara is a non fiction text within the Discovery Area of Study in the 2015 HSC English Standard and Advanced courses.

Synopsis

Book Image

The Motorcycle Diaries

In January 1952, two young men from Buenos Aires set out to explore South America on a 500cc Norton. One of them was the twenty-three-year-old Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara.

Written eight years before the Cuban Revolution, these are the diaries of Che Guevara, full of disasters and discoveries, high drama and laddish improvisations. Touring through Argentina, Chile, Peru and Venezuela, his greatest concerns are where the next drink is coming from, where the next bed is to be found and who might be around to share it. Within a decade Che Guevara would be a household name. His trip might have been the adventure of a lifetime – had his lifetime not turned into a much greater adventure.

Syllabus Description

This Area of Study requires students to explore the ways in which the concept of discovery is represented in and through texts.

Discovery can encompass the experience of discovering something for the first time or rediscovering something that has been lost, forgotten or concealed. Discoveries can be sudden and unexpected, or they can emerge from a process of deliberate and careful planning evoked by curiosity, necessity or wonder. Discoveries can be fresh and intensely meaningful in ways that may be emotional, creative, intellectual, physical and spiritual. They can also be confronting and provocative. They can lead us to new worlds and values, stimulate new ideas, and enable us to speculate about future possibilities. Discoveries and discovering can offer new understandings and renewed perceptions of ourselves and others.

An individual’s discoveries and their process of discovering can vary according to personal, cultural, historical and social contexts and values. The impact of these discoveries can be far‑reaching and transformative for the individual and for broader society. Discoveries may be questioned or challenged when viewed from different perspectives and their worth may be reassessed over time. The ramifications of particular discoveries may differ for individuals and their worlds.

By exploring the concept of discovery, students can understand how texts have the potential to affirm or challenge individuals’ or more widely-held assumptions and beliefs about aspects of human experience and the world. Through composing and responding to a wide range of texts, students may make discoveries about people, relationships, societies, places and events and generate new ideas. By synthesising perspectives, students may deepen their understanding of the concept of discovery. Students consider the ways composers may invite them to experience discovery through their texts and explore how the process of discovering is represented using a variety of language modes, forms and features.

Syllabus Annotations

The following annotations are based on the criteria for selection of texts appropriate for study for the Higher School Certificate.

Merit And Cultural Significance

  • In January 1952, Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, a 23-year-old medical student from Buenos Aires, and his friend, 29-year-old biochemist Alberto Granado, set off on an old motorcycle on what would turn out to be an epic nine-month journey through most of South America.
  • Che would later become a key player in the Cuban Revolution, and a worldwide symbol of rebellion.
  • The book was first published in 1993 and became a New York Times bestseller when it was republished in 2003. It was made into an award-winning feature film in 2004.

Needs And Interests Of Students

  • By turns humorous, provocative and poignant, The Motorcycle Diaries is a classic tale of wanderlust and self-discovery.
  • The boisterous memoir of Che’s youthful adventures is interwoven with a record of the poverty, exploitation, illness and suffering he witnessed along the way. It was these experiences that first awakened his political and social conscience.
  • Over the course of their travels across the continent, Che and Alberto discover how the capitalist system erects barriers of race, class, culture, employment, economics and even health that are oppressive and inhumane.

Opportunities For Challenging Teaching And Learning

  • The text can be approached in a variety of ways: as a bildungsroman revealing a blend of idealism, opportunism and empathy that marks Che’s character; as a chronicle of encounters with people, places, cultures and histories; as a narrative account of friendship, struggles against adversity, generosity and camaraderie; and as the symbolic gestation of a political manifesto for the establishment of a united Latin America.
  • Through close examination of the way recounts, descriptions and commentary are combined in the diary entries, students will trace the gradual evolution of Che’s revolutionary ideology.
  • The book invites comparison with other personal and political memoirs, travel literature, and coming-of-age and ‘rites of passage’ stories, as well as with ‘buddy films’, ‘road movies’ and documentaries.

Links

Acknowledgement

Please note the Syllabus Descriptions and Syllabus Annotations components of this page have been replicated from the Board of Studies, Testing and Educational Standards website. The PDF document of the HSC Annotations can be found here. The main reason any information has been replicated has been to make it easier for NSW HSC students to access information on this text.

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