Motorcycle Diaries relates the real-life situations that Ernesto Guevera de la Serna finds himself in on his journey of discovery with his friend Alberto Granado which starts out as an adventure, typical of many upper middle class young people, before the reality of responsibility and adult life set in.
There are several symbolic components that add to the depth of meaning in Motorcycle Diaries. A well-recognized symbol of discovery is the young men going off to find themselves by embarking on a marginally structured journey. This journey stands for everyone's right to self-realization. The fact that the motorbike is old, battles to even start and breaks down along the way represents all the stops and starts of life and the endless opportunities that present themselves. The "road trip" could have taken so many different "turns!"
The most pressing symbol is the river that separates the "clean" from the "unclean" effectively. The audience is immediately affected by the enormity of the divide - the river - and the metaphorical divide between the classes, regardless of who is watching this, is unmistakable. This symbolism reaches everyone. It is not necessary to understand Guevera's politics, revolution, medicine, geography or any deeper meaning. The reality, on the world stage, cannot escape the audience. This has less to do with lepers and more to do with how most people ignore what is going on around them as they lead their comfortable lives.