Despite technological and cultural changes, the human experience has not really changed in hundreds of years. In fact, it could be stated that the same problems have been affecting human beings through the course of history. Issues such as social injustices, inequalities, betrayals, infidelities, robberies, murders, among others are still as contingent as they were so many years ago. Since remote times, even biblical times betrayals, disloyalties, robberies and all kinds of outrageous attitudes have been easy to find within the societies. Such shameful behaviours have been present not only in developed societies, but also in indigenous societies. It is quite common to wonder why that kind of issues are still present in our days if there are so many years which separate that reality from current reality. As well as those issues have been present in human real lives, they have also been present in literature. During this semester, I have read two masterpieces of literature; "The Great Gatsby" and "Motorcycle Diaries", and I have compared both books in terms of the issues which surrounded the stories. "The Great Gatsby" a North American novel which is a critique of the American dream. "Motorcycle Diaries" a book that traces the early travels of revolutionary Ernesto Che Guevara. Even though the two books deal with different issues, the two of them shared one common characteristic. There was a character in each book who witnessed problems but, only one of them decided to do something about those problems. Being clear about the eternal existence of these kind of human attitudes, the question that emerges is: When having injustices in front of your eyes, is it worth doing something about it?
One of the books that I read was "The Great Gatsby", a North American novel published in 1925, which was written by Francis Scott Fitzgerald and it is considered to be his greatest novel. This novel is mainly based on the fallibility of the American dream in which Jay Gatsby, the main character, never stop the pursuit of his dream; to be part of the social elite in order to win Daisy's love. This novel is considered to be a masterpiece worldwide; actually it has became a staple of the canon of American literature. "The Great Gatsby" is still taught at many high schools and universities across the United States and the entire world. Even though this novel was written over 80 years ago, it continues to be popular due to the same reason many books and plays written hundreds of years ago are still popular. Great literature is really about what it is like to be human. This book touches on themes that are still in today's headlines. Themes such as honesty, decay, gender roles, violence, class and religion are the main subjects of the novel.
Nick Carraway, the character who narrates the story is a young man who comes from a well-to-do family of Minnesota, he arrived to New York so as to work there and got involved with Jay Gatsby and the Buchanans, the family of his cousin Daisy composed of her husband Tom Buchanan, her daughter Pam Buchanan and Daisy herself. Even though Nick was honest and responsible, he shared some of the flaws of the milieu of his days. He strived at all times to be objective and to make appropriate comments just as he said in the beginning of the book
""Whenever you feel like criticizing any one," he told me, "just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had."He didn't say any more, but we've always been unusually communicative in a reserved way, and I understood that he meant a great deal more than that. In consequence, I'm inclined to reserve all judgments (Fitzgerald 1925:9".
As well as this important character lived several adventures during the course of the story, he witnessed some relevant facts which were determinant in the development of the book. There were some shady things within Daisy and Tom's relationship , Tom had an affair with Myrtle Wilson, a vital and voluptuous woman who had a loveless relationship with his actual husband. Even though they were not really in love, Tom had no interest in quitting his marriage in order to marry Myrtle. But, Tom continued having this affair with Myrtle anyhow. Apart from this disloyalty, Nick witnessed perhaps the most important injustice who triggered the final of the story; the scene when Gatsby was unfairly accused of Myrtle's death and also he was murdered by Myrtle's husband George Wilson. But, there was something who characterised Nick's personality, it was the fact that Nick never did anything about the injustices he had in front of his eyes. Nick was just an indifferent observer instead of being an active observer which would have done something to stop all those outrageous situations. He could have carried out so many actions which could have probably changed the course of the story of "The Great Gatsby". For example, he could have told his cousin that Tom was having an affair with other woman, and he could have helped Jay Gatsby when he was unfairly accused of Myrtle's death, since he knew that Myrtle was run over by Gatsby's car; but, it was Daisy who was driving the car in that moment. In fact, Nick was the only witness in this novel and at the same time he was who did nothing about the injustices that he had in front of his eyes.
The other book that I read was "Motorcycle Diaries" a novel published for the very first time in 1993 in its Spanish version then, its English version was published in 2003. This book was written by Ernesto Guevara de la Serna, but is has been edited and translated by other writers through the years. In fact, it was edited and translated by Alexandra Keeble in 2003, being this version the first published in English. Ernesto, also known as "Che Guevara" was an upper-middle class student of medicine who enrolled in a journey through South America with his friend Alberto Granado on Granado's motorcycle called "La Poderosa", a 500cc Norton. This adventure took place during an extended sabbatical from Ernesto's medical studies at the University of Buenos Aires between 1951 and 1952. This journey broadened Ernesto's mind and political standpoint since he felt so outrageous by all the difficulties endured by the people he met along the way. This book also shows injustices, social issues which have affected human beings throughout the years. Che Guevara not only lived lots of adventures but also witnessed lots of injustices experienced by local people during the journey. He could observe so closely how hard was life for most of the people that he met along the way, the plight of the Chilean proletariat, the hard reality of the mining workers that he met in Chuquicamata, how indigenous people were dispossessed of their territories, the discrimination suffered by indigenous people in Peru, the differences established among lepers in the Leper Colony of San Pablo.
The fact of witnessing all those social injustices were the starting point for Ernesto to start thinking of doing something to try to solve all those problems. In fact, Ernesto felt so touched having such alarming reality in front of his eyes. His dear Latin America and his dear people were decaying. This situation could not continue being held any longer. He admitted that as a traveller he can only see things at surface level, however, he attempted to delve beneath the sheen of the places that he visited. Ernesto realised what was really happening in his dear continent, and even his medical career was of little importance compared to the social issues existing in his days. There was only one year left to finish his medicine studies, he was about to graduate, but; his dear Latin America needed his help. "Che Guevara" did understood that he has to help his dear Latin American people
"The mestizo curator was very knowledgeable with a breathtaking enthusiasm for the race whose blood flowed in his veins. He spoke to us of the splendid past and the present misery, of the urgent need to educate the Indians.... The semi-indigenous features of the curator, his eyes shining with enthusiasm and his faith in the future, constituted one more treasure of the museum, but a living museum, proof of a race still fighting for its identity.(Guevara:2003:78)"
Actually, Guevara left Argentina as a boy on a lark and returned eight months later as a man at the beginning of a mission. Ernesto demonstrated that determination an conviction can be enough to change not only one' s mind but also others. He actually changed his own mind, Ernesto felt that he was not the man he once was. These are some of the reflections of Ernesto
"Wandering around our America has changed me more than I thought. I am not me any more. At least I'm not the same man I was","Me, I'm not the same me, at least not the same spiritual me" .(Guevara,2003:79)" .
So, Ernesto Guevara unlike Nick Carraway did decide to do something about the injustices that he was witnessing at that time. Disgusted whith what he saw during this journey he decided to join Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro. Actually, feeling that he had some living to do before obtaining his medical degree Ernesto waged guerrilla warfare and became Cuban Minister of Industry. He wanted the liberation of Cuba from a corrupt military dictatorship and resist to United States interference in Cuban political affairs. As time went by, "Che Guevara" continued fighting so as to accomplish his ideals.
After reading such two interesting and important books, I just have to conclude with what in my opinion was the most important and noticeable difference between both books; the attitudes of two important characters of the books and how different they are. On the one hand, Nick Carraway was a correct but arbitrarily incorrect man; in fact, he was always trying to be as correct as possible trying to avoid criticizing people. But if the facts of hiding outrageous behaviours and what is worse not doing anything about those situations mean that a person is correct I do not think that Nick was such a correct man. A correct man could have done so many things in order to change the course of the story of "The Great Gatsby", things which were neither done nor even intended to do by Nick Carraway. On the other hand, Ernesto Guevara de la Serna also known as "Che Guevara" was a down-to-earth man in every sense; actually, since he realised how Latin American people was suffering all kinds of injustices he woke up and decided to do something about it. If every single person have some human faculties such as the capacity of being amazed as Ernesto did I think that Nick Carraway did not have that capacity; in fact, he was beyond amazement. Not even the unfair accusation of murder that Jay Gatsby had against him could changed Nick Carraway's mind. Personally, I cannot stand attitudes like the ones showed by Nick, I cannot understand how a man can be so unaware of what is happening around himself. Even having outrageous attitudes in front of his eyes, Nick just ignored them and continued with his life as if no bad things happened. On the contrary, Ernesto reacted in front of these issues and made a very good choice, perhaps the best choice of his entire life. He decided to help all those suffering Latin American people, and this fact positioned Ernesto "Che Guevara" as one of the twentieth century's most enduring icons. That is the reason why I strongly believe that it is worth doing something about when such unfair situations are in front of your eyes. There is nothing more rewarding than giving a hand to someone who needs it, this is no doubt one characteristic which make us more human; defining us as human beings properly.