Adventuring is an efficient way of uncovering new understandings and renewed perceptions of ourselves as well as others. The various activities we take part in can evoke characteristics about ourselves that lead to new revelations. Ernesto Che Guevara’s journal, The Motorcycle Diaries (TMD) and Tennyson’s “Ulysses” illustrate this through visual and literary devices. Both protagonists go through a gradual transformation and through their struggles they emerge with a clear perception about their surroundings and themselves. Despite the difference in stimuli for the creation of these pieces of writing, they both explore the impact of discovery from new experiences.
Discoveries can be fresh and intensely meaningful. The Motorcycle diaries have each chapter shown as a discrete moment of discovery. The opening chapters set the reader up for the discoveries to come. Guevara describes himself as “somewhat of an adventurer” evoking in the audience a sense of openness towards the future transformation. The section, ‘so we understand each other,’ frames, for the audience, the rewritten and reflective journal demonstrating the change to come as Ernesto recognizes the ‘man he used to be.’ In the beginning he is a young man who comes from a privileged background. In the end, he is a man with an altered perspective of the world and his place in it.
Ernesto sets out on journey hoping to fulfil what he termed as “the spirit of a dreamer.” Having a middle class background, this young man steps into the world not knowing what lies ahead of him. Che and Alberto go on this journey looking forward to adventure. Che shows his gentle nature with his personification of the scenery. He shows a meditative writing style when he refers to the ocean as a ‘confidant, a friend that absorbs all it is told and never reveals those secrets.’ He shows the audience his deep connection to the ocean as well as nature. Sibilance extends the sensual nature of Ernesto’s encounter with the sea portraying it as a method of relaxation and a motivation for perseverance. He comes in contact with beautiful scenery and he suggests it is better to ‘seek the spirit of the landscape’ than to just look at it on the plainly. Ernesto shows how he truly is connected to nature. This romantic soul is seen when he talks about how ‘nature cut straight into our (their) hearts.’ He admires the true beauty of nature and he shows the deep respect he has for it as he did not want to ‘disturb the peace of the wild sanctuary.’ Even though they were non-believers, they felt a ‘sanctuary’ in nature and they were able to connect with its ‘spirit.’ Che’s limited scope opens up to the broader aspects of Latin America. These romantic confrontations become a catalyst in Che’s transformation, from a youthful dreamer to political revolutionary. His ignorance towards the various parts of the continent leave the capacity for an open mind towards the situations he experiences. It is in this gap that the true foundations of change are laid.
Like Guevara’s Motorcycle Diaries, “Ulysses” written by Alfred, Lord Tennyson shows a nostalgic king that undergoes the emotional challenges that occur after travelling on the wide open road of discovery. “Ulysses'” description of his discontent and restlessness upon returning to his kingdom, Ithaca, is evident in his melancholy tone. However, ‘Ulysses’ wishes to continue the journeys he went on before he returned home to govern his country. Both Guevara and Ulysses see travel as a means for discovery, growth and wisdom. Similar to Guevara, Ulysses’ travels expose him to many different types of people and ways of living, as evident through this quote, ‘much have I seen and known: cities of men and manners, climates, councils, governments.’ The accumulative listing reinforces the continual growth and understanding Ulysses is able to develop as he discovers different people and societies. He acknowledges that to remain in one place is living a routine life, ‘it little that profits an idle king.”. His simile “As though to breathe were life”, implies that this idleness is not living. This king is shackled with the responsibility and imprisoned by his duty of governing a ‘savage race that hoards and sleeps and feeds and know not me (him).’ This shows the audience the dull and mundane life he has to cope with looking after people who are only capable of eating and sleeping as opposed to him, who has travelled and seen the outside world gaining knowledge and wisdom through experience. He reflects on his former glory and contemplates his age. Ulysses declares it is unfulfilling to stay in one place and to remain stationery is to ‘rust unburnished and not to shine in use.’ The use of this metaphor gives the reader a view on where Ulysses stands on remaining idle. Through this lacking he begins to yearn constantly for new experiences to broaden his horizon.
The impact of discovery can be far reaching and transformative for the individual and for broader society. Due to Che’s privileged life, he has never experienced the poverty and unjust treatment the minorities in Latin America are accustomed to. Similar to Ulysses philosophy, Che’s social conscience is developed through a series of encounters with different situations and inspirational people. Che is impassioned when he meets a teacher ‘who sacked for being a member of APRA.’ His growing awareness is heightened when he goes to the leper colony and the local people are so grateful for the way Alberto and him treat them. He does not realise his social engagement will reveal much of what he did not know about South America. Through this journey he begins to realise what the world is like and that his actions have an impact. This changes how he initially looked at life. He begins to feel a part of his continent rather than his country. Guevara’s ambitions have been steered in a new direction. The powerful description of the simple observations he made about the lifestyle of the indigenous people position the reader to ‘see what the eyes actually see.’ The journey allows Ernesto to come in close contact with ‘poverty, hunger, disease and the inability to cure a child due to lack of resources.’ In Guevara’s speech to medical students, he refers to how he ‘dreamed of being a famous researcher,’ giving the reader a glimpse of the life-changing impact of what he has seen. Che adds to this idea by admitting there are things as ‘important as being a famous researcher and that is helping these (those) people.’ His altered perception enables him to recognise the inequalities that drive Latin America further into the lack of social indemnity. He has a sarcastic tone when he refers to the faithful “Yankee’ dog, showing the reader his enraged attitude on the exploitation that America is carrying out in the areas of the oppressed minorities. Che grows out of that naïve young man because ‘all wandering that around our America… has changed me more than I thought.’ It is these moments that shape Che into the revolutionary he becomes.
Discovery and rediscovery are processes that can be ongoing. Similar to Guevara, Ulysses acts on the conviction he is facing towards discovering his unhappiness due to the conditions he is subdued to. There is lift in the tone of the poem showing Ulysses becoming more resilient and picking himself up. The gradual lift in the tone of the poem shows a certain triumph in his ongoing inner battle. He is determined to set out on exploration of different places as he ‘cannot rest from travel.’ Ulysses speaks with an unidentified confidence as he is addressing his son, Telemachus, ‘to whom I (he) is leave my sceptre.’ Ulysses also addresses the mariners who once worked with. He encourages them that although they are ‘not now the strength that which in old days,’ they must not let age stop them from expanding their horizons for ’tis not too late to seek newer worlds.’ He speaks about how they did great things in the past,’ moved heaven and earth.’ He declares his new goal is to sail onward beyond the horizon and ‘follow knowledge like a sinking star.’ This sibilance suggests the never ending journey of discovery. Although the mariners are not as physically strong as they were but they are ‘strong in will’ and this can sustain them as well as giving them the motivation to push forward despite the outcome. The inscriptions at the end of the poem restore an ambivalent tone to it. It appeals to a collective identity founded on heroism and equality, ‘one equal temper of heroic hearts, Made weak by time and fate … To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield.’ These lines suggest that seeking and finding might not guarantee triumph but striving against all the odds they face must be create the same satisfaction yielding does.
Embarking on a long distance journey provides a canvas to renew perceptions or develop understandings of ourselves and others. This is evident in Ernesto Guevara’s The Motorcycle Diaries and Tennyson’s ‘Ulysses’. Ernesto Guevara is a young man that embarks on a motorcycle journey as a naïve young man who could not see further ‘than the dust on the road ahead and ourselves on the bike.’ He emerges from the journey that was ‘decided just like that’ through Latin America a politically aware man that turns into a revolutionary. In the same way, Ulysses is an ‘idle king’ governing a ‘savage race.’ Due to the course of time, he discovers the abrupt stop he had taken in his journeys and explorations is not fulfilling. He leaves the throne to his son and he has gained a new found confidence in embarking on those travels once more. Despite the differences and outcomes of the text, they both show the transformative aspect discovery has on an individual. As a student, the exploration of these texts has shown me the importance of travelling in relation to discovery and its power to change the perception of myself as well as others.