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(Course Hero, 2017)
Course Hero. "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Study Guide." September 20, 2017. Accessed July 5, 2020. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Zen-and-the-Art-of-Motorcycle-Maintenance/.
Course Hero, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Study Guide," September 20, 2017, accessed July 5, 2020, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Zen-and-the-Art-of-Motorcycle-Maintenance/.
Two key ideas sustain Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. First, the cultural view of technology as the enemy of nature and society concerns and troubles the narrator, who is essentially the author's voice and the main protagonist in the book. He believes that because technology is essential to modern life, we should view it with respect and work to understand it without judgment. Second, Pirsig wants to examine his own psychiatric history and his earlier mental breakdown as they gradually return to his conscious memory. The motorcycle image unites the two themes: learning how to maintain his own "bike" helps the narrator become comfortable with technology, and the motorcycle journey provides a way into his journey of self-exploration. The book's relevance continues. In the years since its 1974 publication, Zen principles have become increasingly mainstream in the West as technology has advanced considerably.
The narrator is a slightly fictionalized version of the author himself. When the perspective is the author's, experienced in "real time," Pirsig uses the first-person singular and the present tense. When the perspective belongs to the narrator's alter ego, Phaedrus, Pirsig uses the third-person singular and the past tense.
The title reflects the book's main theme: The proper way to care for a motorcycle is a metaphor for the proper way to live. Correct living and motorcycle maintenance should both be guided by the Zen-inspired principles of mindfulness, living in the present, refraining from judging oneself or others, and striving for harmony between mind and body.
This study guide and infographic for Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance offer summary and analysis on themes, symbols, and other literary devices found in the text. Explore Course Hero's library of literature materials, including documents and Q&A pairs.