The Motorcycle Diaries recounts the motorcycle trip (in 1952) of two friends the 29 years old Alberto Granado and the protagonist and later revolutionary character the 23 years old Ernesto 'Che' Guevara. Both of them are university students of medicine who undergo physical discovery in Argentina to Venezuela, and passing from Chile, Peru and Colombia. Face-to-Face experiences of social injustices of exploited miners, oppressed communists and the persecuted leper colony allow Guevara to discover the harsh reality of society's attitude toward the human condition and transform their outlook on life. .
Buenos Aires history professor Carlos M. Vilas states that "His (Guevara) political and social awakening has very much do with this face-to-face contact with poverty, exploitation, illness, and suffering". This metaphoric language agrees with Guevara's response toward his discovery of the ignorance of the degree of human suffering. Initially, Guevara and Granado uncover the blatant discrimination between social classes during their journey of self discovery across South America. Coming from the upper-middle class, Guevara discovers that poverty is a day to day problem suffered by lower class individuals and its co-existence with wealthy capitalists is an issue left unchallenged,thus neglected. This is exemplified when, Guevara nurses an old woman, a victim of the injustice present in the country, as she transitions from "Waitress facing life with dignity" to a "purely negative factor in the struggle for life, and consequently, a bitterness for healthy members of the community who resent their illness as if it were a personal insult to those who have to support them". Guevara's emotive juxtaposition allows the responder to sympathize and creates a sense of urgency to promote change. Furthermore, in Valparaiso, they discover the social problems established by government, like the overcrowding and the almost non- existence of economic help for the community which is portrayed through the personification that their "distended nostrils inhale the poverty with sadistic intensity.