Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Robert Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.
- Full Title: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values
- When Written: Early 1960’s to 1973
- Where Written: Bozeman, Montana
- When Published: 1974
- Literary Period: United States Counterculture
- Genre: Philosophical novel; semi-autobiographical
- Setting: Various parts of the United States, roughly 1943-1974
- Climax: Phaedrus’s psychotic break
- Antagonist: For Phaedrus: “The Chairman of the Committee.” For the narrator: Phaedrus.
- Point of View: First-person narrator
Life Imitates Art. Bob and Gennie DeWeese, mentioned in the book as friends of Phaedrus and the narrator from Bozeman, are real historical figures. Bob worked as an art instructor at Montana State College, and together the couple helped introduce contemporary art into Bozeman’s very conservative cultural environment. The DeWeeses have received many visits from diehard Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance fans, eager to make a pilgrimage to a site mentioned in the book.
Anchors Away. Pirsig isn’t just a motorcycle travel enthusiast. His wanderlust has taken him on many extensive sailing trips as well. In 1977, he wrote an article for Esquire magazine entitled “Cruising Blues and Their Cure,” which details the depression and liberation that can be experienced on the open ocean.