Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance | Study Guide

Robert Pirsig

Download a PDF to print or study offline.

Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic


Course Hero. "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Study Guide." Course Hero. 20 Sep. 2017. Web. 13 Dec. 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Zen-and-the-Art-of-Motorcycle-Maintenance/>.

In text

(Course Hero)



Course Hero. (2017, September 20). Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved December 13, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Zen-and-the-Art-of-Motorcycle-Maintenance/

In text

(Course Hero, 2017)



Course Hero. "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Study Guide." September 20, 2017. Accessed December 13, 2018. 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 December 13, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Zen-and-the-Art-of-Motorcycle-Maintenance/.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance | Part 3, Chapter 24 | Summary



"Long Chautauqua today," the narrator announces.

The narrator reminds readers that on the first day of this trip he talked about his and the Sutherlands' opposing views of technology. He used their motorcycles as his metaphor. For the Sutherlands, motorcycle technology was unattractive and incomprehensible, something best left for mechanics to deal with. Taking care of their own motorcycle sullied them somehow. But for the narrator, learning how his motorcycle operated and how to repair it himself brought him into harmony with the universe. It was a "natural and normal" process because technology itself was natural and normal, nothing to be afraid of.

At the beginning of the trip, the narrator couldn't fully develop his thoughts about this because he hadn't fully explained the philosophy of Quality: "A person who sees Quality and feels it as he works is a person who cares. A person who cares about what he sees and does is a person who's bound to have some characteristics of Quality."

How is it best to put these concepts into a practical context? By talking about repairing an old motorcycle.

The travelers stop at a lodge for lunch. Chris decides to write a letter to his mother but can't think of anything to say. The narrator suggests he "make a list ... in any old order," and Chris ends up with a three-page list of things he wants to say.

Back on the road, the narrator points out that Chris got stuck when he started the letter. "Stuckness" is another problem he'd like to cover in this Chautauqua. People get emotionally stuck in all kinds of ways. They may have trouble communicating clearly, finishing tasks, or keeping themselves motivated. At first glance, the scientific method can't help much with stuckness. Rationality can't explain why we get stuck or how to get unstuck.

Classic rationality means believing in a binary system in which "there is a divided reality of subject and object." In the classical rationalist view, a motorcycle and a mechanic are separate entities. The mechanic simply performs actions on the motorcycle to improve its functioning. People are comfortable with this binary view, says the narrator, but it's just one more viewpoint; the duality does not really exist. People need to identify emotionally with their tasks; they need to sense the Quality inherent in each task.

Being stuck, according to the narrator, may not even be a problem. If people welcome stuckness and accept it without an ego, instead of resisting, it can be beneficial. In fact, it can be the "key to an understanding of all Quality." Accepting their stuckness enables people to see a problem in new, more intuitive ways.

As they drive through Grangeville, Idaho, Chris and the narrator realize they're about to descend a canyon thousands of feet deep.


This chapter serves as a refresher on the general topics addressed to date, as well as a compilation of the concepts the narrator has tackled by continuing the motorcycle analogy. All of the things he's addressed in his argument were necessary just to get to where he wanted to start: "the repair of an old motorcycle."

In essence, the narrator thinks being "stuck" is not a state to avoid. It is part of the process. Much like his earlier example of the tranquility of mind and quiet required to maintain a motorcycle, this is a place of contemplation. In that contemplative space, clarity and innovation can occur.

Being stuck can have an effect similar to that of nature. Climbing the mountain, being in the landscape, and descending are all physical manifestations of the internal process of contemplation and potential routes to wisdom.

With his arguments in this chapter, the narrator is clearly saying there is and must be unification of the romantic and classical, the objective and subjective. He continually sets forth seeming divisions and then argues for their unification.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!