Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance | Study Guide

Robert Pirsig

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Course Hero. "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance Study Guide." September 20, 2017. Accessed November 16, 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 November 16, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Zen-and-the-Art-of-Motorcycle-Maintenance/.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance | Part 4, Chapter 28 | Summary



The narrator feels overwhelmed by the memory of a distant November when Phaedrus and Chris drove through gray streets in their broken-down old car. In the memory they're looking for something, but Phaedrus can't remember what. He knows that whatever it is, they're not going to find it. He wishes he could put his head on the steering wheel and rest. A terrified Chris tries to help. Phaedrus can't remember where they live, so Chris gets out of the car to ask directions and "leads a demented Phaedrus through the endless walls of brick and broken glass." They reach home hours later.

This memory overwhelms the narrator so strongly he decides he'll send Chris home. When they reach San Francisco, he'll put Chris on a bus, sell the motorcycle, and check into a hospital.

Recollections of Phaedrus's pursuit of admission to the University of Chicago, and the complicated department politics, follow. Here the narrator introduces the terms logos and mythos. Throughout the book, the narrator has dominantly referenced philosophers who trace many of their ideas back to these ancient Greek concepts. Logos—logic—is the predecessor of much of the philosophy Pirsig cites in the book. The contrast, mythos, is the collective body of tales, stories, and hero songs. Phaedrus, ultimately, came to believe that the definition of one who rejects mythos is "insane."

The narrator goes on to recall how Phaedrus was admitted, taught at another university, and studied the classics, including Aristotle.

Chris asks his father why they are making this journey, and the narrator admits he owes Chris explanations and answers.


This chapter lacks an overt Chautauqua; instead, it is a reminiscence about who he, the narrator, was when he was Phaedrus. Interwoven with flashbacks is the literal journey and Chris's question about why they are making this trip.

In the context of the discussion of logos and mythos, the narrator leaps forward to suggest people do not create religion. Instead "men are invented by religion." Further, he deduces that "Quality is the generator of mythos" and "the mythos is insane."

In an apparent breakthrough, these conclusions are all "from him"—not Phaedrus. The dream of Phaedrus returning is followed by the continued memories of Phaedrus's past and his thoughts. The narrator and Phaedrus have reestablished connection.

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